Westport Health Notes — Septic systems: News, loans, new rules

Posted 7/11/19

Welcome to Westport Health Notes, a monthly column from the Westport Board of Health (BOH). The goal is to share information with our community about local issues and projects, public health alerts, …

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Westport Health Notes — Septic systems: News, loans, new rules

Posted

Welcome to Westport Health Notes, a monthly column from the Westport Board of Health (BOH). The goal is to share information with our community about local issues and projects, public health alerts, and even fun facts about the A to Z scope of responsibility that local boards of health manage.

For July’s column we are focusing on septic systems. First, some good news – the BOH is pleased to announce the availability of low interest loans to homeowners who need to upgrade a failed septic system or cesspool. The BOH recently voted to lower the interest rate (from 5%) on this next round of the septic loan program to make it more advantageous for Westport homeowners faced with expensive repairs. The interest rate for upgrading a standard septic systems is now 4%. The interest rate for installing an enhanced nitrogen removal system is 1.5%. Enhanced nitrogen removal systems prevent nitrogen contamination of drinking water supplies, ponds and the Westport River.

A Betterment Agreement between the Town and an eligible homeowner may be used for all costs necessary to repair or replace a failed septic system including engineering, soil testing, permit and administrative fees, and construction. Homeowners obtain the estimates and choose the contractors.  The normal BOH review and permitting process is still required. There is no credit check needed, but all municipal accounts (real estate taxes, water bill, etc.) must be paid and up to date to be eligible for a loan. The homeowner pays back the loan in the form of a betterment placed as an additional line item on the real estate tax bill twice a year over a 20-year period.

To start the application process or answer any questions, please contact the Program Administrator, Nelia Williams at williamsn@westport-ma.gov; 508-636-1035. The Community Septic Management Program is funded through the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Clean Water Trust Fund.

Separately, the state provides a tax credit of up to $6,000 over four years to defray the cost of septic repairs to a primary residence. The credit cannot exceed $1,500 in any year and may be spread out over four years. The tax credit is limited to work done on a primary residence only. Tax Form Schedule SC is the correct form for the tax credits. The credit is reduced if the homeowner takes advantage of a community septic loan.

On another front, as of May 1, 2019 the BOH also is implementing a longstanding state Department of Environmental Protection policy of “maximum feasible compliance” that applies to septic repairs and upgrades on those properties in Westport that are subject to nitrogen loading limitations. In order to protect drinking water systems, the Board normally requires enhanced nitrogen removal septic systems and/or deed restrictions on the number of bedrooms allowed on undersized lots. Standard Title 5 septic systems are not designed to remove nitrogen compounds contained in human sewage. The raw effluent in your septic system is estimated to contain 38 to 70 parts per million (ppm), while the safe drinking water standard is 10 ppm. So if your (or a neighbor’s) well is close to the leach field or cesspool, there is an increased risk of waste nitrogen from the septage that leaches into the groundwater being drawn up into your drinking water well. Copies of the policy are available in the BOH office. Homeowners affected by this policy may be eligible for the low interest loans described above.

If you have questions you’d like answered or suggestions for future topics, please email the BOH at health@westport-ma.gov.

Finally, one quick correction to June’s column: In Westport burial permits are actually issued by the Town Clerk, not the Board of Health.

Submitted by Tanja Ryden, board member

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