The Alternative

Creating Space for Technologists to Tackle Wastewater Challenges on Cape Cod

January 18, 2024

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

Barnstable County Department of Health and Environment

Building A Wastewater Cohort

We've been seeing a lot of exciting news around innovative/alternative (I/A) systems and urine diversion in the media. On January 3rd, the Town of Mashpee's Health Board (see article below) passed new septic regulations around I/A systems and new construction. The article cites that when an I/A system is installed on a property within 1,000 feet of wetlands, all systems on the property must be either connected to that I/A system or upgraded to an additional I/A system. Interested in learning more about this regulatory development and others like it? Schedule a tour of the Test Center - we'd love to answer your questions.

The Buzzards Bay Coalition recently released a how-to guide entitled: Installing a Nitrogen-Reducing Septic System. The guide provides a walk-through of the installation process, provides recommendations for local engineers, and details available financing tools. This resource will help provide a better understanding of how to shape-shift the wastewater conversation in your town with regards to I/A systems.

Did you know there are over 4,000 I/A systems on Cape Cod right now? This isn't some futuristic thing. They're here to stay. While some may find I/A systems perplexing, we ask you to do your due diligence and keep an open mind. Sewering, I/A systems, and alternative toilet technologies (composting and urine diverting toilets) are all pieces of this big Cape Cod wastewater puzzle.

This past Sunday, you might have seen CBS Sunday Morning with an entire segment featuring our colleagues at the Rich Earth Institute up in Brattleboro, Vermont. Did you ever think you'd hear a mainstream news magazine talking about "peecycling" and turning human urine into fertilizer? We are excited to be working with our partners at the Town of Falmouth, the Rich Earth Institute, and many dedicated Falmouth residents to develop and fund a first-of-its-kind urine diversion initiative.

Keep learning, keep reading, and keep an open mind!

Our Cape Cod waters are depending on you.

Mashpee Requires (I/A) Septic Systems be Installed for New Construction

According to the Mashpee Enterprise, board members on Wednesday, January 3, approved amendments that will require innovative/alternative (I/A) septic systems be installed for new construction, increases in flow, and any other installations or upgrades of a septic disposal system within 1,000 feet of wetland resource areas.

Mashpee’s current regulation requires I/As in those instances that fall within 300 feet of wetlands. The health board approved that regulation in April 2022. The increase from 300 feet to 1,000 feet will take effect on January 12.

The updated regulation will also require that when an I/A system is installed on a property within 1,000 feet of wetlands, all systems on the property must be either connected to that I/A or upgraded to an additional I/A."

Read the whole story on the Mashpee Enterprise.


MASSTC Must-Read: The Three Ages of Water by Peter Gleick

The Three Ages of Water will give you a whole new appreciation for what we all want to protect here on Cape Cod. Our beautiful water.

The book is a revelatory account of how water has shaped the course of human life and history, and a positive vision of what the future can hold—if we act now.

"From the very creation of the planet billions of years ago to the present day, water has always been central to existence on Earth."

In The Three Ages of Water, Peter Gleick guides us through the long, fraught history of our relationship to this precious resource. Water has shaped civilizations and empires, and driven centuries of advances in science and technology—from agriculture to aqueducts, steam power to space exploration—and progress in health and medicine.

A must-read.


Let's Talk. Potty Talk That Is.

At MASSTC, we are all about potty talk, so we created a whole series, just for you!

Potty Talk is a discussion of all things Cape Cod water and wastewater science, in an easy-to-understand language. Our conversations are both LIVE and pre-recorded and posted on our Potty Talk page afterwards.

We also have a podcast called One Drop Leads to Another featuring guests from a variety of backgrounds and professions that have water stories to tell.

(Disclaimer: As part of this series, we work hard to bring you the best potty jokes we can. Whether you think they are funny or not will not stop us from creating more.)

Cape Cod AquiFund

Barnstable County is pleased to provide low-to-no-interest betterment loans to Cape Cod homeowners faced with the cost of replacing their septic systems. The Cape Cod AquiFund provides financial assistance for septic system replacement, installation of advanced onsite wastewater treatment units, and sewer connections.

Explore AquiFund


Phone: (774)-330-3019

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