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