The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 17, 1999


Maybe garbage grinders aren't so bad after all

Some new data on the impact of garbage grinders has led the board of health to loosen local regulations, which will favorably impact particularly one-acre lots.

Board of health consulting engineer Rob Frado found new data which states that the use of a garbage grinder disposal system contributes very little nitrogen to a septic system. Frado explained the new findings saying that of the three components in a septic system -- gray water, black water and solid material -- the garbage grinder produces mostly solid waste. The majority of the nitrogen comes from black water. The local board of health has mandated and will continue to mandate a 50-percent increase in septic system size to allow for garbage grinder use. "Everybody's system goes in 50 percent bigger regardless of whether they use a garbage grinder," explained board chair Steve Opolski.

Impact on one-acre lots

What does this new finding mean for the homeowner? Because of the board's stance that a garbage grinder contributed to nitrogen loading, they believed a four-bedroom house on a one-acre lot with a garbage grinder would exceed the nitrogen loading limit of 440 gallons per day per acre. This left those homeowners with the choice of designing a three-bedroom house or placing a restriction on the deed to exclude a garbage grinder. Frado's new information has led the board to conclude that a four-bedroom house with a garbage grinder can be permitted on a one-acre lot.

While most homeowners in Carlisle have lots of two acres or greater, one-acre lots do exist. A one-acre lot is legal if it is within Zone A in the town center or if the lot was subdivided before the 1950s when the town mandated two-acre zoning. There were three one-acre lots under consideration at the September 7 meeting and a fourth one is expected on a future agenda. Two of the plans are for septic system repairs and two are for new construction.

Based on the new information, the board approved a septic plan for Lot 1 on Lowell Street for new construction, reversing a previous denial. The prior submission had been denied because the board believed that a garbage grinder would cause the nitrogen-loading to exceed the limit of 440 gallons per acre per day.

The board also revised a voluntary upgrade of a system for the one-acre property at 69 Bellows Hill Road. The system design had the 50-percent increase in field size. The board made the unusual move of having the engineer, Joe Curtin, modify the plans right there to show a two-compartment tank and the board removed the no-garbage-grinder restriction previously required on a one-acre lot.

The original repair plan for a one-acre lot at 169 Church Street was reconsidered and the no-garbage-grinder requirement was waived. The board intends to revise its regulations.

Bedroom addition

Homeowners Marc Wey and Jonatha Holland appeared at the board of health meeting to ask for comments on their plan to add a bedroom to their house at 307 Acton Street. The board had a lengthy discussion centering on whether the additional room should force an increase in the size of the septic system which was designed for four bedrooms.

The rule for bedroom calculations is to determine if the number of rooms (excluding closets and bathrooms) exceeds eight. If it does, the number of bedrooms is the number of rooms divided by two and rounded down. In Wey's case, the board determined that the walk-out basement had ceilings too low to count as rooms and only counted the rooms on the main floor resulting in a count of eight, prior to the addition. With the addition, the room count was nine and the formula indicated that the house should still be considered as four bedrooms.

Board agent Linda Fantasia stated, "I hate to rain on your parade, but these people are adding a bedroom! If it started as a four-bedroom house and then we are adding a bedroom is it still a four-bedroom house?" Again came some more confusing discussion. Finally, the board concluded that the house was large and would normally exceed the nine-room limit except for the low ceilings in the basement. The board recommended that the homeowners seek a deed restriction on the house to limit it to four bedrooms.

1999 The Carlisle Mosquito