Live In Massachusetts? What Should You Know About Your Septic System And Title 5?

If you're a Massachusetts resident, you may take pride in living in a state known for its scenic, thriving coasts, harbors, and beaches. However, in addition to drawing in hordes of tourists each summer, these bodies of water are the primary motivators behind Massachusetts's strict laws and regulations governing septic systems. Because cesspools and certain types of septic systems can leach into nearby ground water supplies, local residents must be mindful to maintain these systems to prevent leaks or septic failures. A violation of Title 5—even an inadvertent one—could subject you to stiff fines and penalties. Read on to learn more about your rights and responsibilities as the owner of a septic system in Massachusetts.

What is Title 5?

The Massachusetts State Environmental Code is a compilation of all state laws governing issues and actions that can impact the environment—from vehicle exhaust to waste dumping and everything in between. Title 5 of this Code governs septic systems, and is often used as shorthand when referring to sewage or septic laws. These laws are periodically amended or updated to keep up with changes in technology or the environmental that could impact the effect of septic tanks on local water supplies.

What maintenance does Title 5 require you to perform on your septic tank?

Title 5 was most recently updated in 2014, and these updates may require some residents to excavate or replace their septic tanks. If you have a cesspool—a single septic tank without separate chambers through which liquids may disperse—and are located in close proximity to a body of water, you may be required to replace this cesspool, share a more modern septic system with a neighbor, or apply for a variance from your local city or county environmental board to make your septic system "legal" again.

If your septic system is newer but begins to show signs of failure (for example, if your toilets are clogging more frequently or if you begin to notice a faint sewage smell in your yard), you'll also be required to repair or replace it before it fails completely. If your septic system begins to leak solids or unfiltered fluids into the surrounding soil, this could potentially contaminate groundwater—as well as subject you to a hefty fine. You may wish to have your septic system periodically inspected by a licensed plumber (or companies like John C Parmenter Inc.) to ensure that you're in compliance with all applicable laws.