Few people give any thought to where the water goes after we wash the dishes or flush the toilet, but on Cape Cod waste water is serious business. Public sewer systems are rare, waste is literally taken care of in our own back yard.
In the old days people dug cesspools in their backyard where both solids and liquids in waste water were deposited for gradual absorption into the soil. By the time that waste had reached the drinking well or underground acquifer, the soil had "scrubbed" it clean. As the population increased however, the soil's ability to scrub the waste had decreased. Evidence of bacteria and pathogens were creeping into the drinking water supply. Eeww. Enter the septic system.
Initially considered a temporary solution, septic systems have evolved into a sophisticated and preferred method of on-site waste water disposal. And they're really pretty cool when you learn what goes on in that yard of yours.
The video below illustrates how a septic system works. It was produced by Lapin Septic Services in Florida, but the concept applies to Cape Cod too.
Septic Systems are under the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the local Boards of Health. We don't think much about household sewage until it's time to sell the house, and then everybody wants to know about the septic system.
Here are some facts about septic systems and the law which regulates their use, known as "Title V", according to the Massachusetts Association of Realtors:
Q: When are septic system and cesspool inspections required under Title 5?
A: Septic system and cesspool inspections are required in the following circumstances:
Within 2 years before the sale of a home or transfer of title;
In certain inheritance situations; (e.g. - when a child inherits a house from his/her parents);
In certain insolvency proceedings (e.g. - bankruptcy, tax taking or foreclosure);
When the use of the home is changed (e.g. - from residential to commercial use);
When the footprint of the house is enlarged;
When the home is expanded and a building, or occupancy permit is required (e.g. - adding a bedroom)
Q: When are septic system and cesspool inspections NOT required under Title 5?
A: Septic system and cesspool inspections are not required in the following circumstances:
When a mortgage is refinanced;
When the system was inspected within 3 years before the sale and you have records proving that your system was pumped annually since the inspection;
Title to the house is transferred from one spouse to another or placed in certain family trusts;
When the local board of health issued a certificate of compliance within 2 years before the time of transfer of title;
When the community has adopted a comprehensive plan approved by DEP requiring periodic inspections and the system was inspected at the most recent time required by the plan; or
When the homeowner has entered into an enforceable agreement, binding on subsequent buyers, with the board of health requiring an upgrade of the system or connection to the municipal sewer system within 2 years of transfer or sale.
For more information about septic systems in Massachusetts, probably way more than you ever wanted to know, click here.