The Alternative

Creating Space for Technologists to Tackle Wastewater Challenges on Cape Cod

March 21, 2024

The Massachusetts Alternative Septic System Test Center (MASSTC) is a Program of the

Barnstable County Department of Health and Environment

Happy 25th Birthday To Us!

For 25 years, the Massachusetts Alternative Septic System Test Center (MASSTC) has provided space for technologists to develop, test, and certify cutting edge wastewater treatment systems. We're pretty darn proud of that.

In the early 1990s, it became evident that nitrogen and other contaminants from septic systems were damaging Cape Cod’s marine resources and coastal embayments. To address degrading water quality, the Barnstable County Department of Health and Environment and its partners established the Massachusetts Alternative Septic System Test Center (MASSTC). 

Today MASSTC is the nation’s premier third-party testing and research facility for innovative/alternative (I/A) technologies, engaging in extensive research funded by state and federal grants. MASSTC is also partnered up with Barnstable County's SUP (Septic Utility Program), to help Cape Cod's municipalities effectively manage advanced septic system technologies. 

Join us for a year-long celebration!

Next month we launch the Waste No Water tour, a 10+ library series to engage the public in over 10 Cape towns, focusing on the wastewater successes and challenges each town faces. We'll kick off the conversation with a showing of the recent Scientific American documentary that featured MASSTC's efforts. We invite local boards of health, pond groups, homeowners, water advocates and anyone interested in the topic of wastewater to gather and better understand how innovative/alternative systems, including urine diversion, are just one important piece of the ongoing wastewater puzzle.

On April 8th we will be at the Centerville Library and for Earth Day on April 22nd, we'll be at the Yarmouth Public Library. Check out our favorite water-related book reading list we put together for all libraries here on the Yarmouth Library website.


Other events scheduled through 2024 include summer tours at MASSTC, a September open house to unveil our new space, and a November film screening in partnership with the Woods Hole Film Festival.

For information about any of these events or how you can get involved, reach out to us here.

4,000 Innovative/Alternative Systems on Cape Cod & The Islands?

Did you know there are over 4,000 I/A systems all over Cape Cod and the Islands? Last week we stopped in to check on a new advanced system installation on the banks of Herring Pond in Eastham.

The site is a pilot for the FujiClean CRX that can remove nitrogen and phosphorus. MASSTC serves as the system's third-party sampler and operation and maintenance provider for the first two years of operation. There are thousands of CRX systems in use around water bodies throughout Japan, and this is the second CRX in Massachusetts. Where's the first system? In Centerville!

Learn more about how we're supporting new technologies to help Cape Cod's wastewater woes.


MASSTC Welcomes New Communications Lead Amy DuFault!

Amy DuFault is a long-time journalist and storyteller on environmental and supply chain issues in the textile industry.

From the Cape Cod Times to The Guardian, Amy has always looked to shine a spotlight on important issues and water has become her focal point. We actually interviewed Amy on our podcast One Drop Leads To Another a few years ago.

In addition to finishing up a Southeastern New England Fibershed grant last summer at MASSTC growing natural dye plants with urine to look at scaling natural color in the fashion industry and urine as a viable fertilizer for agriculture, you'll find her weeding and planting MASSTC’s flowers.

Amy likes to note that the flowers give people an opportunity to talk about wastewater through the lens of plants.

"If wastewaster can grow dye plants this prolifically, they most certainly can grow cyanobacteria as well."


Barnstable County's Aquifund Gets a $13 Million Boost!

Barnstable County’s AquiFund wastewater loan program is getting a $13 million boost to help tackle the region’s failing water quality. The program provides low to no interest loans to homeowners for septic system upgrades and sewer connections.

The program has assisted almost 5,000 homeowners since its inception, providing over $62 million in low interest loans.

Brian Baumgaertel, Director at the Massachusetts Alternative Septic System Test Center (MASSTC) said, “For almost two decades, Barnstable County has supported Cape Cod homeowners with septic system replacements through the AquiFund program. With recent Title 5 changes imposing stricter standards, the program’s role is crucial. It offers vital financial help, ensuring homeowners can meet new regulations efficiently, safeguarding Cape Cod’s waters for the future.”

More on the AquiFund can be found on the county’s website.


Friday, March 22nd is World Water Day!

Every year, World Water Day (March 22nd) raises awareness and inspires action to tackle the

water and sanitation crisis. It is a United Nations observance, coordinated by UN-Water and

led by one or more UN-Water Members and Partners with a related mandate.

In 2024, the theme of World Water Day is ‘Water for Peace.’

Some facts from the site:

  • When water is scarce or polluted, or when people have unequal or no access, tensions can rise between communities and countries.
  • Cooperation on water can build vital resilience to extreme weather events and help populations to mitigate and adapt to a changing climate.
  • Public health and prosperity, food and energy systems, economic productivity and environmental integrity all rely on a well-functioning and equitably managed water cycle.

Read the World Water Day 2024 Fact Sheet below.


Advanced Septic System Training Opportunities Through URI Spring 2024

Do you know about the New England Onsite Wastewater Training Program (NEOWTP) at URI? If you're part of the growing community of onsite wastewater-related professionals and regulators these are classes you need to take.

NEOWTP regularly has MA System Inspectors & Soil Evaluators enrolled in their classes and are hoping to hear more this year from boards of health or RS/REHS folks as innovative/alternative systems become an increasingly large part of wastewater regulations.

There are a number of classes this spring for anyone trying to get up to speed on nitrogen reducing innovative & alternative (I/A) advanced onsite wastewater technologies.

The NEOWTP website has the most up-to-date information and details about what training is scheduled on their Classroom & Field Training Opportunities page, and folks can register directly for their 2024 synchronous classes via their online registration website.

Visit Their Website


Phone: (774)-330-3019

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