Friday, March 31, 2000
Talk to the board of health first when planning an addition
If you plan to add rooms to your house, you should first consider the role that a septic system plays in your plans. Peter and Valerie Traynor of 91 Rutland Road learned this lesson the hard way.
On March 21, the Traynors presented a plan to the board of health for an extensive addition to their 1,900-square-foot house. Steve Opolski explained that the septic system size depends upon the number of bedrooms in a dwelling. The rule states that the total number of rooms in a house are counted. If that number is greater than nine, then the number of bedrooms is calculated by dividing the room count by two and rounding down. In the Traynors' case, the room count came to ten, thus making their house with its new addition a five-bedroom house for septic system sizing.
The Traynors' existing septic system passed a Title 5 inspection, but the house was built in the 1920s and they have no plans for the system, which they believe is 28 years old. The Title 5 inspector estimated the size of the system as appropriate for three bedrooms. The system, which is comprised of a tank and two leaching pits approximately five feet deep, is working well, according to the owners and the Title 5 inspector. Town consulting engineer Rob Frado looked at the Title 5 report which indicated that there was no sign of water in a test hole dug five-and-a-half feet next to one of the pits. The pits were pumped out two years ago, but pumping was not deemed necessary this time.
The homeowners want to deed-restrict the house to three bedrooms and build the addition. If the current system fails, then they would hope to upgrade the system to current requirements and possibly eliminate the deed restriction. "This is ugly," commented Opolski as he looked at the addition plans which called for a foundation ten feet from one of the leaching pits. The addition has a corner cut so that one room surrounded the pit at a ten-foot radius. Although the board in the past has permitted building that close to a working system, there is usually more justification for the waiver. Opolski questioned the distances to any wetlands and asked if there was any place on the property that another system could be located. Peter Traynor replied that there were wetlands across the street, but he did not know the distances.
Opolski said that the board has a policy of not granting waivers on new construction and a major addition to an existing house falls into the category of new construction. The board needs a detailed plan showing the borders of vegetative wetlands and location of existing wells in relation to a new septic system. Though the board does not recommend any particular civil engineer, it was suggested that the Traynors get some help from someone on the list of engineers licensed to design septic systems in Carlisle.
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