Navigating the Latest Environmental Regulations: What Homeowners in Barnstable County Need to Know

Navigating the Latest Environmental Regulations: What Homeowners in Barnstable County Need to Know

Introduction:

In a significant development for homeowners in Barnstable County, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has recently introduced new regulations amending Title V, particularly targeting Nitrogen Sensitive Areas (NSAs). These changes aim to enhance the protection of Cape Cod's embayments and estuaries from nitrogen pollution originating mainly from wastewater. Here's a breakdown of what you need to know and how it may impact your property.

Understanding the Background:

Title V in Massachusetts governs the construction, maintenance of septic systems, and the transport of septic-system waste. The recent amendments are a result of a settlement between MassDEP, the Conservation Law Foundation, the Town of Barnstable, and the Town of Mashpee. The primary focus is to address nitrogen pollution and its impact on Cape Cod's coastal ecosystems.

Watershed Permit Program:

As part of the new regulations, MassDEP has introduced a voluntary Watershed Permit program for towns in Barnstable County. If a town pursues and is granted a watershed permit, existing constructions within that watershed are exempt from the new Title V regulations. This exemption is granted as the town is deemed to be making significant progress towards reducing nitrogen pollution.

Key Dates and Deadlines:

Towns have a two-year window from July 7, 2023, to file a notice of intent to obtain a Watershed Permit. Doing so will delay the effect of the new Title V Regulations for NSAs. For most affected regions on Cape Cod, the NSA designation takes effect on July 7, 2023. Homeowners in these areas must file notice to obtain a Watershed Permit by July 7, 2025, to avoid upgrading to an Innovative Alternative (IA) septic system by July 7, 2030.

Property Lookup and Disclosure Requirements:

To help homeowners determine if their property falls within a Nitrogen Sensitive Area, MassDEP will update the definition of NSAs on July 7, 2023. A Property Lookup tool will be available for easy verification. Additionally, both Chapter 93A and the new Title V Regulations require disclosure of NSA status during property transfers. CCIAOR provides a comprehensive disclosure form for affected properties.

Local Updates and Exemptions:

Stay informed about local updates through CCIAOR's town-by-town tracker. Provincetown is currently exempt from the new DEP Title 5 regulations due to their unique circumstances. Pleasant Bay Watershed Permit offers time extensions for Orleans, Chatham, Brewster, and Harwich.

Planning for the Future:

Many towns have completed Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plans, a crucial step in applying for permits for other watersheds. The DEP encourages towns to apply for a single permit covering multiple watersheds to streamline the process.

Conclusion:

As these new regulations come into effect, it's crucial for homeowners in Barnstable County to stay informed and take necessary steps to comply. Use the provided tools for property lookup, follow disclosure requirements, and be aware of local updates. By understanding and adhering to the latest regulations, you contribute to the preservation of Cape Cod's unique and valuable coastal ecosystems.

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