The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 22, 1999


BOH differentiates between septic repairs and upgrades

It's no secret that many of the septic systems in town do not comply with today's rigid Title 5 regulations. When Carlisle property owners try to expand their buildings, they often uncover a failed system. What may come as a surprise is that the town's board of health views repairs of existing systems and upgrades to accommodate expansions very distinctly.

Two cases presented at the board's October 12 meeting involved working systems that failed inspection prior to an application for a building permit. These included the Congregational Church at 147 School Street and the property at 272 Rutland Street. In both cases, the engineering firm, Stamski & McNary, wants to fix the systems as a repair and, in the process, enhance the system to accommodate expansion plans. At first glance, such an arrangement appears to benefit everyone involved. There is a safer system in town and the property owner has a larger system to accommodate expansion. But the board of health took the time to give the plans a second look and uncovered areas of concern. When it comes to regulating the town's water supply, the board will not compromise safety.

Church plans delayed again

The Congregational Church wanted to start breaking ground for a sanctuary building this year. Based on recent town board decisions, however, that probably won't happen. The Carlisle Board of Appeals, identifying parking concerns, had already postponed their decision on the plans to November 4. The board of health also decided to continue the septic plan hearing to its next meeting on October 26.

The church's septic system failed inspection due to unacceptably high groundwater levels. "We propose to repair the system by replacing the leaching system," said Joe March, of Stamski and McNary, Inc. "We will upgrade the system at the same time." The plans call for a septic system that would handle a flow of 1,990 gallons per day, and thus accommodate the addition of a sanctuary building. March based his calculations on those used for the new Saint Irene Church which was approved by the board of health last year.

While acknowledging the similarity to the Saint Irene property, chair Steve Opolski showed caution. He expressed concerns about approving the church system as a repair and doubling its size in the process.

"I don't think there's anything in the code that says you can't double the size of your leaching area on a whim," responded March, somewhat facetiously.

Opolski smiled, but continued, "I want a list of what really is going on in the facility, including plans for the new building. I want to see how many people are in classrooms and in meeting rooms." Only after understanding all of the proposed uses will the board determine the relevance of the formula that it applied to Saint Irene.

Voluntary upgrade meets resistance

Ted Byers and Judy Taylor of 272 Rutland Street want to finish an unheated loft area over a garage for their daughter. In adding a bedroom, the size of the septic system would also have to increase. The system today, although working, does not comply with current regulations. It has a metal tank, and no distribution box. The homeowners want to bring the system up to Title 5 compliance voluntarily, and increase the size of the system in the process. Unfortunately, due to the lot's configuration and presence of ledge, the plans would require two waivers. The proposed septic tank and pump chamber would fall within the 100-foot arc of the well and 100-foot buffer zone of wetlands on an abutting property.

"If you treat this as a repair, what would be the logical thing to do?" asked George Dimakarakos of Stamski and McNary, Inc. "Clearly it's a better system than what is there today." Dimakarakos eloquently described the system and the recommended location as the only one possible.

Byers stated he would not upgrade the system voluntarily unless he could expand it. He added, "We're hoping for a compromise."

"This is a tough situation," said Opolski. "If it was a repair, we would normally let you put some of the components into the buffer zone. But since you want to increase the flows to the system by adding a bedroom, we would have to go by the rules of new construction." The board does not allow any waivers for new construction. However, they would approve the waivers if the homeowners were to repair the systemat its current size.

"You get to keep your house at its existing size, but you can't upgrade it," said Opolski while strongly encouraging the repair. "It's going to be a better system, safer for the environment, and safer for you."

Way cleared for repairs

and new construction

In other business, the board approved a system at 216 Cross Street with the required repair of the system distribution box. The 43-year-old house appears to have the original septic system, but the owners have experienced no problems. The water analysis proved fine.

"It's an old system and may be marginal, but it's still working now," said Opolski. "Should the system fail, it would be upgraded at that point. But we won't go looking for problems now."

The board also listened to testimony regarding a property at 87 Woodland Road. The proposed repair meets all Title 5 and local requirements, but the homeowner wants a waiver for six inches of crushed stone in front of the house for aesthetic reasons. The configuration includes an oversized leaching field, so the board determined the waiver would not compromise the safety of the overall system.

In reviewing new septic disposal systems, the board:

· Approved plans for Lot 12 A Curve Street.

· Approved plans for Lot E-2 East Street, with a note that the conservation commission should review work in the buffer zone.

· Approved a revised plan for Lot 11 Buttrick's Lane, pending ConsCom acceptance.

· Moved to send the planning board a letter allowing release of two Pine Meadows lots.

With new plans, the board decisions are quick and clear. There are no waivers. Repairs are also relatively straight-forward...unless repair plans also propose new construction.

1999 The Carlisle Mosquito