The Town of Marion recently took a major step forward in the effort to combat water pollution in Buzzards Bay with the adoption of regulations that will require new construction to install nitrogen-reducing septic systems. It also requires that systems that fail inspection when a property is being sold to upgrade to a nitrogen reducing system.
The new regulations, unanimously approved in July by the Marion Board of Health, places the town in the vanguard of municipalities taking action to address home septic systems, which are a primary source of nitrogen pollution to the Bay. Wareham and Tisbury already require new construction to use nitrogen-reducing septic systems and Westport is considering a similar regulation.
“We commend the Marion Board of Health’s leadership,” said Buzzards Bay Coalition President Mark Rasmussen. “With this new regulation, Marion joins a growing number of communities who are taking proactive steps to reduce the amount of nitrogen pollution from home septic systems. We are eager to help more towns around the Bay adopt Marion’s approach.”
Nitrogen pollution presents a grave threat to local water quality. More than half of the Bay’s harbors, coves, and tidal rivers suffer from its effects. Nitrogen pollution fuels the growth of algae that makes the water cloudy and murky. Without enough sunlight getting through the water, important habitats like eelgrass beds begin to die off. And that affects species like fish, crabs, and bay scallops, which all live among eelgrass beds. Recreational uses such as the public’s ability to swim and shellfish are also affected. In some areas, nitrogen-polluted waters have been documented to contribute to decreases in coastal home values.
One of the primary sources of nitrogen pollution to coastal waters is Title 5 septic systems. Traditional Title 5 septic systems treat for bacteria, but are not designed to remove nitrogen. Nitrogen from these septic systems passes through the leaching field and into groundwater, which then flows into local water bodies. Marion’s new regulation requires that new septic systems reduce nitrogen before wastewater flows into groundwater, thus limiting nitrogen pollution flowing to the Bay. It applies to new construction and to failing systems at the time of a property sale.
Nitrogen-reducing septic systems have been found to remove as much as 80 percent of nitrogen from wastewater. Over the past two years, the Coalition has facilitated the installation of 30 nitrogen-reducing septic systems in West Falmouth as well as promising new system designs in other towns around the Bay. To learn more about our work to advance nitrogen-reducing septic system performance and acceptance, see XXXXXXXX