Frequently Asked Questions
The Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan (CWMP) is a town-wide, state approved, science-based plan to protect Barnstable’s coastal waters, ponds and drinking water by managing nutrient pollution from wastewater. To accomplish this, the plan calls for an expansion of the Town’s wastewater infrastructure (sewers) as well as other innovative and nature-based approaches such as inlet dredging, cranberry bog conversions and use of nitrogen removing septic systems. A project of this magnitude generates many questions. Below we’ve curated some of the most frequently asked questions, across a wide range of topics including construction sequencing, connection costs and state regulations.
Have a question you don’t see answered below? Email us at: WaterResources@town.barnstable.ma.us
Sewer Connection & Anticipated Costs
How do I know if I'm eligible for new sewer?
The first step to determining if you are anticipated to receive sewer, as part of the Town’s 30-year sewer expansion plan, is to visit the Assessing Division’s Property Look-Up Tool (click here) on the Town of Barnstable website.
The Property Look-Up Tool allows you to search by parcel, owner last name, and/or street address. Once you’ve located your property, click on ‘Details‘ to open up the full Property Display. Within the ‘Owner Information‘ section you will see if you currently have Town sewer or if you are identified to receive Town sewer as part of the CWMP. If you are receiving Town sewer, this section will also indicate if you are part of Phase 1 (0-10 years), Phase 2 (11-20 years), Phase 3 (21-30 years), or if you are in a yet to-be-determined stage.
The Town is currently operating within Phase 1 of the CWMP. If you find your property is included in Phase 1, you may contact the Department of Public Works at 508-790-6400 or via email at WaterResources@town.barnstable.ma.us for additional details regarding which of our 16 Phase 1 projects your property has been identified in.
For an overview of estimated construction sequencing for each of our current Phase 1 sewer expansion project, please visit the map and project schedule available on our Phase 1 Projects page (click here).
Do I have a choice regarding sewer connection?
The Board of Health has the authority to require property owners to connect to the municipal sewer system when it becomes live. The Board of Health also has the authority to allow property owners to delay connecting depending upon their unique circumstances.
When am I expected to connect to sewer?
On December 19, 2023, the Board of Health voted to ammend their Seewer Connection Policy. The policy currently requires, “the owner of a building on a parcel of land which abuts a public or private way in which there is a public sewer shall connect the building to the public sewer within six months of the Board’s letter notification.“
The Sewer Connection Policy also provides guidance on Hydraulically Failed Septic Systems as well as Extension Requests. Download the full Board of Health Sewer Connection Policy here.
If I recently installed a Title 5 system, do I still need to connect and pay?
The Board of Health and Department of Public Works are working closely with property owners to avoid situations where new Title 5 systems are installed in areas that will be receiving sewer service. If you have a question about the status of your property and proposed municipal sewer service, please contact the Department of Public Works at: 508-790-6400 or email WaterResources@town.barnstable.ma.us
When am I expected to connect?
On our Sewer Connection page (click here) we break down the eight essential steps that comprise the sewer connection process, which includes pre-construction communication from the Town, in-road construction and restoration activities, and ultimately connection notification from the Barnstable Health Department.
A property owner will not be expected to begin the sewer connection process until notification has been received from the Board of Health, signaling that the property is eligible for connection. The Board of Health is currently finalizing their sewer connection policy, which will outline a required timeline property owners will be expected to adhere to when connecting to the municipal sewer system.
How much does all of this cost?
As a property owner you will be responsible for hiring a licensed sewer installer to complete the connection from the sewer service stub installed by the Town at your property line to the physical building on your property. The Town does not install or perform construction on private property.
Property owners connecting to new sewer service are responsible for the following costs: a one-time Sewer Assessment, costs associated with connecting the sewer service to your property, and fees for using sewer service once activated. Each of these costs is explained in more detail, including financing alternatives, loan programs and situational deferment options, on our Anticipated Costs page (click here).
Is there any payment assistance or abatement?
We understand that septic to sewer conversion can be expensive. That’s why the Town of Barnstable is continuously exploring every option available to reduce costs to residents.
Any property owner may opt to pay the Sewer Assessment in quarterly installments and have it added to their property tax bill over thirty years. An abatement process will be available if a property owner believes they were incorrectly charged for a sewer assessment or if the sewer assessment charge is incorrect.
The Town is also exploring the possibility of allowing qualifying homeowners the option to defer their sewer assessment if they meet certain income and asset limits. This would carry an interest charge and the sewer assessment would be paid at the time of a transfer in ownership or refinancing of the property.
What other financial support is available to assist with connection costs?
Below we’ve shared two of the currently available financing options property owners can apply for to assist with sewer connection costs. As the Town continues to expand and formalize its own financing options, and as we become aware of additional options, we will share those resources on our Anticipated Costs page (click here).
The Cape Cod AquiFund: Barnstable County is pleased to provide low-interest betterment loans to Cape Cod homeowners faced with the cost of replacing their septic systems. Cape Cod AquiFund provides financial assistance for septic system replacement, installation of advanced onsite wastewater treatment units, and sewer connections. Learn more about the Cape Cod AquiFund here: https://www.capecod.gov/departments/health-environment/programs-services/water-and-wastewater/community-septic-management-loan-program-csmlp/
Cape Cod Five Sewer or Water Connection Loan Program: Cape Cod 5 supports efforts to improve infrastructure and protect our environment. We also recognize that these initiatives can result in significant costs to homeowners. That’s why we’re offering a Sewer or Water Connection Loan to qualifying homeowners at competitive rates. Click to review program details and approved usages. Learn more about the Cape Cod Five Loan Program here: https://www.capecodfive.com/sewer-or-water-connection-loan-program
What happens to my septic system after I connect?
The de-commissioning and/or removal or filling of septic systems will be determined on a property- by-property basis. This determination will be made at the time the property is being connected to the sewer system. If you have a question regarding septic abandonment, please call the Town of Barnstable Health Division at 508-862-4644 or email email@example.com.
What is a Sewer Assessment?
A Sewer Assessment is a charge to a property owner for a specific benefit received (a public sewer). It can be up to 100% of the property owner’s proportional cost share of the project’s cost. It can also be subsidized so that the charge is less than 100% of the proportional cost share or capped at a maximum dollar amount.
Extending sewer service is necessary to meet federal clean water standards in our estuaries. All residents benefit when the Town’s water resources are protected. Therefore, a shared cost approach is used to equitably fund the costs of building infrastructure to provide sewer service. Under the shared cost approach, a portion of the cost is paid by the sewer assessment charged only to new sewer users; another portion of the cost will be provided by state and federal grants (in the form of subsidized low interest loans and principal subsidies on loans); visitors to the Town will contribute by paying the local room occupancy taxes (including the Cape Cod and Islands Water Protection Fund Excise), and local meals tax; and the remaining portion of the cost will be paid out of the Town’s General Fund. This shared cost approach mirrors the method used to fund previous infrastructure projects.
What is the purpose of the Sewer Assessment Ordinance?
The Sewer Assessment Ordinance is intended to charge property owners who will be connected to new sewer service, as outlined in the Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan, a fair share of the cost of the infrastructure needed to provide that service. Property owners connecting to sewer service will have the convenience and reliability of modern sewer service without the costs of maintaining and ultimately replacing a Title 5 septic system. Properties connected to sewer service may experience a 6-13% increase in home value (1), and an increase in the marketability of the property. In addition, roadways where sewer mains are installed will be repaved.
(1) Based on recent studies performed for Mt. Pleasant Township, PA and Old Lyme, CT.
Who is required to pay the Sewer Assessment?
The Sewer Assessment is a charge that will be applied to the owners of properties that have one or more residential or commercial sewer units that are eligible to be newly connected to sewer service under the sewer expansion plan.
A residential sewer unit is defined as the number of dwelling units on a residential lot. For example, a two (2) family dwelling unit on a residential lot will be assessed two (2) Sewer Assessments.
A commercial sewer unit is defined by the amount of sewer flow on the property based on Title 5 of the State Environmental Code, 310 CMR 15.203, system sewage flow design criteria; whereby every 330 gallons per day of flow equals one (1) sewer unit.
A property owner will be charged the same number of Sewer Assessments as there are residential or commercial sewer units on the property. The Sewer Assessment does not apply to existing sewer customers in Town, or to any properties that are already eligible to connect to live sewer service, even if they are not yet connected as the sewer system is already available.
How is the Sewer Assessment calculated?
The Sewer Assessment represents the allocated cost of the sewer infrastructure that will be serving an owner’s residential or commercial property, as defined above.
Allocated cost is the sum of (a) 100% of the cost of general benefit facilities (i.e., main trunk lines, pumping stations) divided by the number of properties served by those facilities; and (b) 100% of the cost of special benefits facilities (i.e., adjacent sewer main tied into the main trunk line), divided by the number of properties served by those facilities.
The combined cost allocated for the general and special benefit facilities will be capped at $10,000 at the beginning of the program and possibly adjusted for the inflation in construction cost annually thereafter.
What does the Sewer Assessment include?
The Sewer Assessment represents the lesser of (a) $10,000 or (b) the allocated cost of the general benefits infrastructure and special benefits infrastructure.
The Sewer Assessment does not include the cost of connecting a property to the sewer service located in the street. It also does not include the cost of decommissioning the current on-site system. However the Sewer Assessment does cover the cost of the first grinder pump per sewer unit on the property, if needed to connect to the sewer system located in the street.
When is the Sewer Assessment paid?
A property owner will be charged the Sewer Assessment when the sewer system serving their respective property becomes live. The Sewer Assessment will be issued at that time whether or not the property is immediately connected to the sewer system.
What happens to the lien on the property upon transfer of ownership?
The lien for the Sewer Assessment may either be transferred to the new owner of the property or paid off at the time of transfer. If financing is involved with the property transfer, this will depend upon the financial institution.
Financing the Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan (CWMP)
How will implementation of the plan be paid for?
The estimated cost of the 30-year plan is approximately $1.4 billion, including construction, borrowing costs and inflation. The Town has already made significant progress in meeting this funding need. Through legislative action at both the state and local levels the town has created over 50% of the estimated funding sources needed for this program. For the remaining resources needed, the Town has developed an equitable and affordable financing plan to fully implement the CWMP.
The Town has created an existing dedicated revenue stream that will provide an estimated $600 million over the 30-year implementation timeline. This revenue stream consists primarily of proceeds from the hotel/motel room occupancy tax, short- term rental occupancy tax, local meals tax and a new excise tax of 2.75% that applies to all types of lodging on Cape Cod.
As new customers come on-line to the public sewer system, revenue generated from user rate revenue is estimated to contribute over $200 million to the plan.
For more information watch the CWMP 2023 Financial Update, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9i-vV1onx4&t=7589s
How will the remaining funding be met?
With existing spending and revenues accounted for, the remaining funding needed to implement the plan is approximately $600 million over thirty years.
The Town is proposing a two-part strategy to meet this need:
A Sewer Assessment Ordinance adopted by Town Council created a sewer assessment that applies only to properties that will be receiving sewer service. The sewer assessment of $10,000 per sewered property at the start of the program. This amount reflects only a portion of the actual cost of sewering the property. It is also less than the potential increase in property value an owner will benefit from by being connected to sewer service. Impacted property owners have the option of paying the full amount upfront, or amortizing the assessment over 30 years, to be included on quarterly tax bills.
The remaining funding needed to fund sewer construction could come from a reduction in the annual operating budget or a debt exclusion override to authorize an increase in the property tax levy, or a combination of both. This portion of funding would apply to all property owners in Town.
How is the Town going to finance individual phased projects within the plan?
Most projects will need to be financed with the issuance of a bond (loan) due to the amount of cost involved. It is anticipated that all projects will be submitted to the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust (MCWT) for financing as it operates a revolving loan fund with competitive borrowing rates and, in some cases, principal subsidies. The Trust will also administer the distributions from the Cape Cod & Islands Water Protection Fund (CCIWPF) which will be in the form of principal subsidies Due to the limited funding capabilities of the MCWT and CCIWPF some projects will need to be financed with General Obligation Bonds (GOBs) which will be competitively bid in the capital markets.
Where can I learn more about funding the CWMP?
Prior to commencing implementation of the Comprehensive Wastewater Mangement Plan, the Comprehensive Financial Advisory Committee (CFAC) developed a robust list of frequently asked questions related to the plan and its funding.
Download the complete guide to CFAC questions about sewering and funding the CWMP, here: https://barnstablewaterresources.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Questions-on-CWMP.pdf
Understanding the ‘Why’ and Need for the CWMP
What is the CWMP?
The Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan (CWMP) is a planning document, required by regulatory agencies, which identifies the Town’s wastewater needs and establishes a recommended plan for resolving them. Barnstable’s CWMP was approved in April of 2021. We are currently operating within Year 3 of our 30 year plan.
Why does Barnstable need this plan?
The plan is a regulatory requirement to meet water quality standards under the federal Clean Water Act (Act). Due to excessive nitrogen pollution from surrounding watersheds, many of Barnstable’s coastal embayments are considered “impaired waters” in violation of water quality standards under the Act. Regulatory thresholds for acceptable levels of nitrogen in these waters, called Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), have been certified by federal and state environmental agencies. The plan provides the road map for meeting the TMDLs and restoring the health of coastal waters.
What's the general problem here in Barnstable?
The Town of Barnstable, like many on Cape Cod, is suffering from impaired coastal waters due to excessive nitrogen. Our community has also experienced a decline in water quality across multiple sources resulting in groundwater quality concerns and pond water quality concerns. With impaired water resources we face a myraid of other issues that demand attention and action, including flood zone and climate change concerns, economic development, and regulatory requirements.
What is a watershed?
A watershed is an area of land that drains or “sheds” water into a specific waterbody. Every body of water has a watershed. Watersheds drain rainfall and snowmelt into streams and rivers. These smaller bodies of water flow into larger ones, including lakes, bays, and oceans.
Where does nitrogen come from?
Nitrogen pollution in Barnstable has been documented by the Massachusetts Estuary Project (MEP). Studies have determined that roughly 78% of controllable nitrogen comes from our reliance on septic systems (Source: Cape Cod Area Wide Water Quality Management Plan Update, 208 Plan, Cape Cod Commission).
The current Title 5 septic systems are not designed to remove signigicant nitrogen. Additionally, currently approved Innovative/Alternative (I/A) septic systems do not remove enough nitrogen to achieve TMDL’s in Barnstable.
The Town is required to meet Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), essentially a ‘nitrogen budget’ and in order to achieve these TMDLs, sewers are necessary.
What if Barnstable doesn't take action?
The Federal Clean Water Act requires communities to meet Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs). Failure to implement changes that protect our water resources can future damage water quality, impose negative impacts to local economy and property values, and puts the Town at risk of court order, lawsuits and/or regulatory enforcement.
How does Barnstable plan to proceed?
The CWMP outlines both the traditional and non-traditional approaches the Town intends to implement to assist in nutrient management. The plan includes:
(3) 10-Year Phases of Sewer Expansion
- Approximately 190 miles of new sewers
- Approximately 11,800 properties to be connected to sewer
- Phases executed as multiple smaller projects
Leveraging Existing Infrastructure
- Upgrades to the Water Pollution Control Facility
- Improvements and enhancements to existing sewer infrastructure and sewer pump stations
- Including but not limited to dredging, stormwater, floating wetland treatments, etc.
- The plan is flexible and adaptive
- 5-year updates are required
- Annual report submission to the Cape Cod Commission
Furthermore, as of September 1, 2023, the Town of Barnstable submitted its application for a WP95 Watershed Permit. Our application included the request for a Watershed Permit covering the entire Town of Barnstable, regardless of if a village was receiving sewer as part of our Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan, or not. Our application remains under review with MassDEP; we will be sure to keep our community updated throughout the review process.
How do the new Watershed Permit Regulations and revised Title 5 Septic regulations impact me?
The Town of Barnstable received the final Watershed Permit Regulations (314 CMR 21.00), and Title 5 Natural Resource Nitrogen Sensitive Area Regulations (“NSA”) (310 CMR 15.214 and 15.215), on Thursday, June 22, 2023. After completing a comprehensive review, our initial understanding is that the Town’s state-approved Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan (CWMP) will comply with the requirements of a Watershed Management Plan (WMP) and can be used as the basis for a Watershed Permit.
Furthermore, as of September 1, 2023, the Town of Barnstable submitted its application for a WP95 Watershed Permit. Our application included the request for a Watershed Permit covering the entire Town of Barnstable, regardless of when, or if, a village was receiving sewer as part of our Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan. Our application remains under review with MassDEP; we will be sure to keep our community updated throughout the review process.