Help Restore West Falmouth Harbor: Upgrade Your Septic System

Nitrogen from on-site septic systems is polluting West Falmouth Harbor.  The nitrogen draining to the harbor from cesspools and conventional septic systems makes algae grow and turns the water murky and cloudy.  Eelgrass beds die and shellfish begin to disappear.  In short, nitrogen pollution is quietly destroying the Harbor we love.  Upgrading your septic system from a cesspool or conventional system to a nitrogen reducing system can substantially reduce the amount of nitrogen coming from your home.

Why should I upgrade my septic system to help Restore West Falmouth Harbor?

Conventional Title 5 septic systems are not designed to remove nitrogen and cesspools do not remove bacteria or nitrogen.  By volunteering to upgrade your existing septic system to a nitrogen-reducing system, you will join 30 of your neighbors in reducing nitrogen inputs and speed up the recovery of the harbor.  The Coalition stands ready to support you with your system upgrade project.

What funding is available to upgrade my septic system?

The Coalition is providing subsidies to property owners who volunteer (are not required to by the town to install a new nitrogen reducing system) to upgrade existing cesspools or conventional septic systems to high-performing nitrogen-reducing systems.  There are two types of subsidies available.  First, the Coalition is offering 10 subsidies in the amount of $15,000/home to year-round homes located within the Mashapaquit Creek/Snug Harbor watershed, pictured below.  The second subsidy is a $5,000/home subsidy available for 5 shoreline homes (within 100’ of West Falmouth Harbor) with existing cesspools or conventional systems.

The subsidies will help cover the cost of design, permitting and installation and will be provided as a reimbursement to the homeowner.  The cost to upgrade an existing Title 5 septic system (already having a septic tank and leachfield) to a nitrogen-reducing system is approximately $25,000 and the cost to replace an existing cesspool is approximately $34,000.  Costs are driven by site-specific factors such as lot size, soil type, and groundwater elevations.

If I choose to participate, what is the process and what are my responsibilities?

If you volunteer to participate and take advantage of the $15,000 or $5,000 subsidy, the Coalition will assist you with the following:

  • Engineering and Permitting: An engineer must design the layout of a nitrogen-reducing septic system capable of removing 70% of the nitrogen from your wastewater.  This design will need approval through the Board of Health and possibly the Conservation Commission.  The Coalition will assist you with choosing a nitrogen-reducing technology, an engineer, and with permitting;
  • Installation: Once engineering and permitting are completed, the Coalition will assist you with finding a contractor to install your system and will help to coordinate the installation;
  • Sampling: To measure how well your new system is operating to remove nitrogen, the Coalition will collect monthly samples for at least the first year at no cost to you.  Afterward, your operator will take over the required sampling and the cost will be added to your Operation & Maintenance contract;
  • Deed Notification: All nitrogen-reducing septic systems require a notification on the deed showing the type of system installed and the ongoing requirements for future property owners.
  • Costs: You will be responsible for all costs beyond the $15,000 or $5,000 subsidy.  Costs other than those provided above include:
    • Operation & Maintenance Contract: Estimated $800/year depending on system type & use;
    • Sampling: $250/year depending on system type & use; and
    • Electrical: $200/year on average depending on system type & use.

How do I sign up to participate?

To learn more and sign up for this program, contact Joe Brennan at the Buzzards Bay Coalition, 508-999-6363, Ext. 233 or  All participants will need to sign a contract with the Coalition for the subsidy.

Contact us today to reserve your spot and do your part to Restore West Falmouth Harbor!