DELAHUNT, COXE, DEVILLARS, STRUHS BREAK GROUND ON NEW
STATEWIDE SEPTIC SYSTEM TEST FACILITY
June 8, 1998
Sandwich — Environmental Affairs Secretary Trudy Coxe, Congressman William Delahunt,
EPA Regional Administrator John DeVillars, and Massachusetts DEP Commissioner David
Struhs today held a groundbreaking ceremony at the Otis Air National Guard Base on the
Massachusetts Military Reservation for the state’s new septic system test center.
The Massachusetts Alternative Septic System Test Center is the result of a collaboration of the
Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program, a unit of the Massachusetts Coastal Zone
Management Office, Barnstable County Department of Health and the Environment, UMass
Dartmouth Center for Marine Science and Technology, and the Massachusetts Department of
Funded by a $459,000 a US EPA Environmental Technology Initiative grant, the purpose of the
center is to test and promote the use of innovative wastewater disposal systems in Massachusetts.
In 1996, a technical team identified the site at Otis adjoining the Base’s new wastewater
treatment plant as the best site for the facility.
“One of the most important parts of my job is to help bring new and innovative environmental
technologies into the market here in Massachusetts,” said Coxe. “This Test Center will go a long
way in solving problems that have stumped us for decades and that is what this is all about:
solving environmental problems by promoting innovative technology.”
According to Buzzards Bay NEP Executive Director Dr. Joe Costa, Dr.
Tony Millham of the Buzzards Bay NEP and George Heufelder,
Project Manager for the County Department of Health will be overseeing
the facility jointly. In describing the how the test center would work, Dr.
Costa explained, “We will be able to test six innovative technologies at
one time, in triplicate, along with conventional septic systems.
Manufacturers of innovative septic systems participating in the Test
Center would install three of their systems at their expense. We would
monitor the performance of these technologies for up to 18 months, and
cover 90% of the costs of analyses. Besides the reduced costs of testing,
participation would also help the vendor with the Title 5 approval
process.” The Test Center will use sewage from the base’s residential
housing to simulate household wastewater. All effluent from the Test
Center will be returned to the MMR sewer with no releases to
groundwater according to Dr. Costa.
Congressman William Delahunt, who helped secure Pentagon approval for the project said: “The
test center will promote new ways to protect our groundwater and coastal resources, while
strengthening the region’s capacity to help local business develop new environmental technologies.”
The Congressman joked to the crowd of around 60 “who could have imagined a few years ago we would be here today
celebrating the construction of septic systems.” He went on to commend all the individuals involved in establishing
the Septic Test Center and that he was pleased to hear that student interns will be brought to the
Test Center to learn about environmental technologies. The Congressman also used the event as an opportunity to award Congressional Citations to two Base officials for their work on Environmental Issues on the military reservation.
Also speaking at the event, David Struhs, Commissioner of Massachusetts Department of
Environmental Protection, the agency responsible for overseeing the Title 5 regulations pertaining to
septic systems and approval of new technologies said: “The testing facility is one more in a series of
successful cooperative efforts by the Commonwealth, EPA and local government to
provide cost-effective and environmentally protective solutions to on-site wastewater problems.”
He also indicated that participation in the Test Center will help companies obtain approval under
Title 5. “We will use this center to document how well these new technologies perform
compared to conventional septic systems, whether they can provide advanced treatment, and
whether these technologies are appropriate for undersize lots, areas with high groundwater, or
other difficult sites.”
John P. DeVillars, Administrator of the US EPA’s New England Office added “Cape Cod–indeed, all
of New England–faces the enormous challenge of sustaining economic growth and development in
a way that is protective of the region’s natural resources. This Center will go a long way in
ensuring that New Englanders will have the innovative tools in the future to prevent
groundwater pollution from septic systems–without breaking the bank or
overburdening the homeowners.” DeVillars also used the groundbreaking ceremony to discuss other environmental initiatives.
Coxe also announced the first four companies to participate in the program at the groundbreaking
ceremony. The Companies announced were Innovative Ruck Systems of Falmouth, MA,
Bio-Microbics of Lenexa, KS, Waterloo Biofilter Systems, Inc of Guelph Ontario, and Spec
Industries, Inc. of Kent, WA.
Who is that in the background (far right)? In 1998, Gina McCarthy, now Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, was a policy director at the Massachusetts Environmental Affairs office and was one of the champions of the Test Center, working behind the scenes between 1996 and 1998 to help the Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program get the project off the ground .