The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, August 30, 2002


Board of health ponders kooky 1950s septic system that works

Ted and Liz Browne of 846 Maple Street brought their expansion plans for discussion with the board of health. The Brownes intend to add a second floor to their flat-roofed home, originally built in 1956. The addition will add one room to the current eight. Since room count is more than eight, the number of bedrooms is determined by adding up the total number of rooms, dividing by two, and rounding down for odd numbers of rooms. Thus the house will still be considered a four bedroom house.

Although there is no problem with the current sewage disposal system, the Brownes had some questions because things were done differently in 1956. One bathroom empties into a cesspool on one side of the house; two other bathrooms empty into a septic system with two 500 gallon tanks and a leach field of unknown size. The kitchen drain goes out the front of the house to a dry well. The system passed a Title 5 test when the Browne's bought the house three years ago. There is no plan for this strange system. The well is located 50 feet from the septic system and 60 feet from the cesspool. Regular water tests indicate no coliform contamination from the septic/cesspool, but the current Carlisle regulations require 100 feet separation from the well to any part of a septic system, although the state Title 5 permits 50 feet.

"We still have some concerns but don't know if we have authority over those concerns," commented board member Lisa Davis Lewis. "Where do you plumb what?" asked board chairman Steve Opolski. "If they kept everything the same it's probably OK," added board agent Linda Fantasia. Since the size of the septic system was unknown the board felt that plumbing everything into the septic system with the 500 gallon tanks might overload it, and it would be best to keep one bathroom still flowing into the cesspool.

Board of health consulting engineer Rob Frado suggested that an engineer could dig up the system by hand to get an idea of the number of trenches and their length, and could make some estimates of the perc rate ­or do a perc test ­ and make a judgment on the adequacy of the system. The soil in Maple Street is sandy and generally presents no problems for septic systems. Frado estimated that such a study might cost $500 to $2000.

"Then can we move ahead with the project?" asked homeowner Ted Browne. Opolski answered that it would be wise to make plans so that the plumbing could easily be changed if there were a system failure and it became necessary to replace the components with a single system. Also the board needs a firmer plan showing how the plumbing is to be connected. Finally, Davis Lewis added that if they finish a room in the basement the board would require them to redo the septic system.

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito