Frequently Asked Questions

What is Title 5?

The Massachusetts State Environmental Code is the regulation governing all septic systems in Massachusetts. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), in conjunction with the local Board of Health, is responsible for enforcing the Title 5 Code.  Title 5 was was originally instituted in 1978 and was revised in 1995.  In order to protect our drinking water and swimming beaches, it is important that all septic systems in Ashland conform to our local and state regulations.

My septic system has failed. What should I do?

Contact a design engineer who will design a new septic system based on the total number of bedrooms for residential properties.  The design of the septic system is a multi-step process that usually involves a survey of your property, a soil and percolation test, and a sketch of your house floor plan, all of which can take up to 2-6 months, depending on your engineer's schedule, the backlog of scheduled soil tests, the review of the final septic plan by the Board of Health, and, if necessary, State approval. The Board of Health is available to guide you through this process. 

How often should I pump my septic system?

On average, every 1 to 3 years, depending on the volume of sewage introduced into the septic system.  If your kitchen has a garbage disposal, your system should be pumped yearly.  The Board of Health does not recommend the use of garbage disposals for homes using septic systems.

When was my septic system last pumped?

Contact the Board of Health Office to obtain a copy of your pump records.

I am selling my house.  What is required?

According to the regulations of Title 5, all septic systems must be inspected and certified prior to the sale of any property. Homeowners are required to hire a Massachusetts State Certified Inspector who is certified by the Department of Environmental Protection to inspect and determine if your septic systems meets the minimum standards. Most septic installers and engineers are are certified to perform inspections. The septic inspector completes an inspection report the the details of the inspection.  This report is provided to the homeowner and the Health Department who reviews the report and issues notices of correction, if warranted.  In the event that a new septic system has been installed at the property within 3 years of the date of sale, an inspection would not be required, however, proof of the septic installation in the form of a Certificate of Compliance issued by the Board of Health would be needed. 

I want to add a bedroom/addition to my house.  What is required?

The Board of Health, through our office records, will help you determine if your existing septic system is large enough to accomodate your proposed renovations, in addition to meeting the required setbacks.  Don't forget to check with the Building Department to address any zoning issues.

I wish to landscape my yard.  What do I need to know?

Prior to any landscaping or construction of any additions on your lot, check with the Board of Health to determine the location of your septic system.  Decks, sheds, and structures of any type cannot be built over the septic system components.  These types of structures will prevent access to the septic components for required maintenance and repairs.  Additionally, building structures may potentially damage the septic components leading to premature failure.  Large plantings, such as trees and shrubs, will also potentially damage the system through excessive root growth that eventually clogs the system.   Plants with shallow root systems, such as grass and ornamental flowers, are acceptable. 

Is there a Tax Credit available for septic system installations?

Yes.  In 1997, the legislature passed legislation allowing an income tax credit for septic system repairs for homeowners of residental properties. The total amount of tax credit allowed per tax year is $1,500, although any excess credit amount may be appolied in the three tax years following the first credit. More information may be obtained through your personal tax preparer or through the Massachusetts Department of Revenue website.

Do's and Don'ts of Septic Sytem Ownership:

DO pump your tank every 1-3 years to prevent a build-up of solids that could potentially clog your leaching facility and fail your system prematurely.

DO practice water conservation. Repair dripping caucets and leaking toilets. Run washing machines and dishwashers only when full and space your loads to avoid overwhelming the septic system.

DO learn the location of your septic system components to avoid unnecessary damage by vehicular traffic or landscaping or construction projects. 

DON'T dump medications or hazardous chemicals down the drain. Use bleach, disinfectants, and other household cleaners sparingly. Overuse of such products will kill the beneficial bugs living in your septic system and will potentiallly contaminate groundwater and the surrounding environment. 

DON'T make or allow repairs to your septic system without obtaining the proper Health Department permits. Use licensed septic contractors to insure proper repairs. 

DON'T use commercial septic tank additives.  These products usually do not help and may actually damage your system.  THe DEP and the Health Department does maintain a list of approved products, however, what naturally exists in your septic tank is adequate for the proper function of your system. 

DON'T use your toilet as a trash can by dumping non-biodegradable items down your drains, as these items do not properly break down in your septic tank and will eventually clog the system.