Innovative Alternative Septic Systems

for Massachusetts

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an “Innovative Alternative (I/A) Title 5 system”?

An I/A system is any septic system or part of one that is not designed or constructed in a way consistent with a conventional Title 5 system. A conventional system has a septic tank, a distribution box or dosing mechanism, a soil absorption system (SAS) and a reserve area. Some examples of alternative systems are recirculating sand filters, aerobic treatment units, humus/composting toilets, and intermittent sand filters.

Do I/A systems work?

Yes. Most I/A systems perform better than conventional systems, when they are designed, built, operated and maintained in accordance with MassDEP's approval and the manufacturer's recommendations. The key is quality installation along with operation and maintenance.

Can I use an I/A system for new construction if my lot does not meet Title 5 requirements?

No. For new construction, the lot must meet Title 5 requirements for percolation rate, four feet of naturally occurring soil, and the required separation from high groundwater. IA systems offer flexibility to existing property owners. New lots or increase in flows to existing properties must meet Title 5 regulations.

I am building a new house and would like to use a technology that currently is not used in Massachusetts. How do I get an approval?

The technology manufacturer may apply to MassDEP for Piloting or Provisional approval, or for General Use Certification. You may apply to MassDEP for approval to pilot the technology on your property. To pilot an alternative system for new construction, including an increase in design flow, you must show that the property could support a conventional system; this provision provides for a back up in case the piloted system fails.

How does a Board of Health verify that there is a valid Operation and Maintenance (O&M) contract in place?

The Local Board of Health requires the owner to provide a copy of a valid O&M contract. Contracts need to be in place before the units are installed. Most towns require O&M contracts to be recorded with the Registry of Deeds.