Other States:
Population: 6,349,097

Information on the state of Massachusetts is available for the following topics. To review this information, click on the links below.

Contacts| Regulations, Statutes & State Codes | Quick Facts | Septic Stats

Onsite Demonstration Programs | Onsite Management Communities



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Steven H. Corr, Title 5 I/A Coordinator
Massachusetts Department of
Environmental Protection
One Winter Street, 6th Floor
Boston, Massachusetts 02108
(617) 292-5920
(617) 556-5696 (fax)


Brian Dudley
Massachusetts Department of
Environmental Protection
Lakeville, MA
(508) 946-2753



Regulations, Statutes & State Codes:
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Massachusetts State Regulations

Massachusetts Constitutions, Statutes and Codes

The State Environmental Code Title 5:
Minimum Requirements for the Subsurface Disposal of Sanitary Sewage
310 CMR 15.00
December 27, 1996

Title 5 Q & A: General Information
January 1996

Onsite regulations for Massachusetts were last updated on December 27, 1996. Regulation revisions currently are being drafted; however, the effective date is as yet unknown. No additional revisions are expected prior to July 31, 2002.

A complete list of technologies approved for use in Massachusetts, including the date of approval, is provided on the Web site (above). Technology not on the list can be proposed under a site-specific piloting application.

Surface discharge is not an option for onsite septic disposal systems in the state.

State Code allows for drainfield area/size reductions, depending on the technology. In remedial or failed system settings, reductions up to 50% are allowed with innovative/alternative treatment systems. All systems with Remedial Use Approval are eligible, as noted on the Web site http://www.state.ma.us/dep/brp/wwm/t5it/htm.

There is a funding program to assist homeowners replacing failing systems or installing new systems. For the program requirements and names, see http://.www.state.ma.us/dep/brp/files/csmpmalx.pdf.

Questions about ongoing onsite wastewater demonstration, research, or testing projects may be directed to:

John Higgins
Massachusetts Alternative Septic System Test Manager
Department of Environmental Protection
50 Route 20
Millbury, MA 01527
(508) 368-5605

Massachusetts Code does not recognize/require management programs/contracts or management districts to monitor/maintain onsite systems or individual septic disposal systems. However, all innovative/alternative (I/A) systems require maintenance/management contracts with an operator. A draft management/maintenance guide is under preparation.

State Code allows local agencies the authority to adopt or require maintenance programs, but they need to obtain a legislative approval for a District. The Department of Environmental protection would be involved to assist the local agency.

The number of permits issued each year is not tracked for new construction unless the site is in a nitrogen sensitive area that requires State approval and tracking. Permits for system repair and replacement are tracked unless the system has an innovative treatment component; then the State may approve and track the numbers. These records are maintained at both the local and state levels. A State database now holds operational information on almost 1,400 systems with innovative component(s).

In Massachusetts, a failed system is one that fails to protect the public health and safety or the environment. Poor installation and poor soils are cited as the most common reasons for system failure in the state.

Installers are certified by the towns; inspectors and site evaluators by the state, and any P.E. can design a system. A registered sanitarian can design systems with flows below 2,000 gpd. Any individual who can pass the certification test given by the state can be licensed or certified to perform site evaluations/inspections.

Quick Facts:
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Total number of onsite systems: About a third of dwellings; 1990 U.S. census reports about

Number of new systems installed each year: NA

Failure definition: Failure to protect the public health and safety, or the environment.

Number or proportion of systems presently failing: About 25%, many “by definition”
because they do not meet current code requirements.

Number or proportion repaired annually: NA

Number or proportion replaced annually: NA

Number or proportion of repairs or replacements that require alternative technology (e.g.,
sand filters, pressure dosing):
This information is not systematically collected, but it is thought
that relatively few alternative systems are employed.

Number or proportion of repairs or replacements that require advanced technology (e.g.,
disinfection, nutrient removal):
Relatively few.

Cost of a conventional septic system installation: $7000, but ranging from $4750 to $15,000;
broadest range, $1500-$80,000.


Septic Stats:
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MASSACHUSETTS 6,016,425 2,472,711 2,265,229 171,182 29,132 7,168 1,803,176 659,120 10,415
BARNSTABLE 186,605 135,192 110,431 22,983 1,567 211 14,971 119,119 1,102
BERKSHIRE 139,352 64,324 49,408 11,500 1,984 1,432 44,549 19,472 303
BRISTOL 506,325 201,235 180,780 16,419 3,735 301 134,547 65,796 892
DUKES 11,639 11,604 7,507 3,809 257 31 963 10,557 84
ESSEX 670,080 271,977 262,390 7,317 1,683 587 222,179 48,827 971
FRANKLIN 70,092 30,394 20,199 6,963 1,952 1,280 16,334 13,543 517
HAMPDEN 456,310 180,025 166,107 11,514 2,098 306 151,764 27,426 835
HAMPSHIRE 146,568 53,068 42,417 8,754 1,426 471 35,990 16,872 206
MIDDLESEX 1,398,468 543,796 521,804 18,153 3,169 670 439,076 103,257 1,463
NANTUCKET 6,012 7,021 4,263 2,365 393 0 4,021 2,963 37
NORFOLK 616,087 236,816 229,820 5,899 753 344 188,358 48,085 373
PLYMOUTH 435,276 168,555 148,255 16,480 3,186 634 74,055 93,545 955
SUFFOLK 663,906 289,276 288,687 316 6 267 286,457 1,276 1,543
WORCESTER 709,705 279,428 233,161 38,710 6,923 634 189,912 88,382 1,134


Onsite Demonstration Programs:
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Barnstable County Health Dept (in conjunction with the Massachusetts DEP) runs an onsite
test and demonstration program at the Massachusetts Military Reservation on Cape Cod

George Huefelder
Superior Courthouse
Rt 6A, Barnstable, MA 02630;
Telephone 508-362-2511

The city of Gloucester has an onsite demonstration program.
Gloucester Engineering Dept
9 Dale Ave
Gloucester, MA 01930
Telephone 978-281-9773,
Fax 978-281-9725

Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve participates in an onsite demonstration

Christine Gault, Director
Rt 28, Waquoit, MA 02536
Telephone 508-457-0495
Fax 617-727-5537

Onsite Management Communities:
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City of Glouchester
Watershed Systems Inc.