Strengthen Title 5 septic system laws, sewers not only answer

George Heufelder’s wise comments on this July 31st page explain that more than half of Cape Cod’s homes will not get sewerage. We cannot rely on this program to clean our bays and ponds of the annual cyanobacteria bloom.

Cape Cod shoots itself in the foot by ignoring its septic system crisis. Many studies from many parts of America show that contaminated ponds and creeks significantly reduce property values. Tourism is also affected.

Sewerage is only a partial answer. They are very expensive, use tons of clean drinking water and electricity to pump the sewage, and do not help the majority of Cape homeowners with their own septic problems.

New regulations:Rules for sewage systems could change in early 2023, Bourne’s health department said

Heufelder has good ideas for tackling this decades-old problem, but I think his suggestions fall short. We need better Title V rules.

I live on Long Pond in Centerville and we are in the midst of another harmful algal bloom and the board of health is recommending no swimming. This is our eighth year in a row. But today, a group of teenagers dived off a floating island across the pond from us. A few days ago it was an out-of-town family with young children swimming at a public access point. It’s a dangerous situation.

Related:The discharge of sewage into the Cape Cod Canal was again discussed at Bourne, despite earlier objections

My frustration comes from the fact that we know how to fix this. The source of the algae is phosphate from inadequate septic tanks (even outdated cesspools!) and lawn fertilizer. Both release phosphate and nitrogen from nearby homes into the water. It is clear that individual homeowners do not have the incentives to fix this, but our government is not acting.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection is proposing stricter Title V sewage treatment regulations with generous loopholes and grace periods, but all I hear is that this will be too difficult and the sewers will not be in place in time to meet the DEP deadlines. This logic may have been valid when it was first used in the 1970s, but it no longer holds.

Related: Phinneys Harbor is expected to be the first focus of review of new septic systems next year

There are innovative and alternative septic tanks that can eliminate almost all phosphate and nitrogen, and we need programs to bring this technology into every home, even those proposed for sewers. It costs a fraction of what sewer connection would cost the homeowner. The new septic systems waste no electricity by pumping millions of gallons of clean drinking water to flush the wastewater to a remote treatment site.

“It is worse”:Cape Cod’s water quality is declining, the environmental group’s report said

Rather than push back sensible, long-overdue changes to Title V rules, let’s band together to get group rebates and soft loans to install the new innovative sewage treatment plants. Dozens of well-known “failed septic” homes should come first. Then those who haven’t been checked for decades. Lower costs, less wasted drinking water and electricity, cleaner ponds and coves, and higher property values.

Write to your state legislature and city council and tell them to do it now.

Steve Waller, Centerville

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