The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 28, 2007


Are local septic regulations too much?

A review of local septic regulations above and beyond those of the state was revisited by the Board of Health on Tuesday, September 25. Carlisle has had supplemental regulations since the 1980s, with the last revision done in 1998.

The decision to maintain supplementary regulations in addition to those required by the state's septic codes, known collectively as Title 5, is justified by the Board of Health with five reasons: that Carlisle's long-term health interests will be better served; that Carlisle has no town water backup; that Carlisle geographically is an area of extensive wetland, high water table and ledge; that Carlisle has no town sewage system in case of emergency; and that current estimates indicate that viruses and bacteria can travel farther than previously believed.

The two major, and most contested, additions to Title 5 are septic capacities and minimum distances between a septic system and a well or wetland.

System size versus bedroom count

One Board of Health proposal allows increases in septic capacity to 150% of Title 5's level. A modified proposal would set the level for a three- bedroom house at 150%, but incrementally lowers the percentage for houses with four, five, six or more bedrooms. This second solution addresses the problem of extra guest bedrooms creating unnecessarily huge septic systems, which, according to Board of Health Chairman Jeffrey Brem, leave a large footprint on the environment in terms of tree removal and ground disruption.

Wetlands setback debated

Regarding minimum distances between septic systems and wells or wetlands, current Title 5 standards dictate there must be at least 50 feet between a septic system and a well or wetland. Board of Health distances double this figure to 100 feet, with an additional 100 feet of barrier for septic systems exceeding 2,000 gallons per day and a private well, for a total of 200 feet.

The board was divided on both the capacity and the distance issue. Proponents of the Title 5 figures, who included Brem and board member Michael Holland, asserted that Title 5 requirements are more than sufficient. Brem also noted that Title 5 requirements are calculated using a one-acre parcel per septic system, and that Carlisle, for the most part, has a two-acre zoning requirement, though many lots in the town center are much smaller.

Proponents of preserving the higher figures, who included board member Leslie Cahill, cited developmental and environmental concerns, and were particularly adamant about keeping the 100-foot buffer zone between a septic system and a wetland.

Cahill posed the question, "Should we be encouraging more development around wetlands?" By doubling the buffer zone around wetlands, according to Cahill, Carlisle would avoid "opening the door to development where we wouldn't have considered it previously."

Cahill also stated that it was important "not to ask the wetlands to carry another burden," to which Holland responded, "But it is a natural burden."

Community input on this issue is welcomed. The Board of Health will revisit this issue at their next meeting, on Tuesday, October 9, and hopes to utilize feedback from the Planning Board and the Conservation Commission to make their decision on an issue that, in a town with no municipal sewage services, affects each and every citizen.

2007 The Carlisle Mosquito