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Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program

Septic Test Center Grounbreaking



Wide angle view of MASSTC groundbreaking.

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 Environmental Protection.

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.

Dr. Joe Costa introduces the speakers.

Trudy Coxe

"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."

Tony Millham

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.
Congressman Bill Delahunt

Congressman Bill Delahunt

DEP Commissioner Struhs

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."

EPA Regional Administrator John DeVillars

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.



Gina McCarthy at the 1998 Test Center opening

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 .

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