HARVARD -- The Board of Health eased the burden of connecting to the town sewer system by allowing a property owner a 60-day suspension.

Eric O'Brien, owner of 7 Still River Road, argued that his current system has just been inspected and "passed with flying colors." He is reluctant to abandon his current Presby system when it has nothing wrong with it.

According to its web site, Presby systems are "an effective, passive onsite wastewater treatment system for residential, commercial and community use, that treats wastewater leaving the septic tank before it is dispersed to the soil using natural bacterial processes." The company claims to clean water passing through its system better than the more common pipe and stone systems.

"Basically, the issue is the system was replaced a while back because it was in failure, and it was replaced with an innovative alternative system," Board of Health Chairman Tom Philippou said. "Under Massachusetts Title 5 regulations, any time there is an innovative alternative system and a town sewer system becomes available, the innovative system needs to be abandoned and the connection to the municipal sewer needs to take place."

Connecting to the town sewer would cost between $5,000 and $6,000 with installer, electrician and plumbing fees included. O'Brien has already paid the betterment fee on his property through the Sewer Commission, and due to the high cost of that, over $50,000, O'Brien wants to keep the Presby system.


Though the board sympathized with O'Brien, members explained that their job is to enforce Title 5 requirements. "We are the sledge hammer that forces things to happen and the Sewer Commission is what you have to deal with," Philippou said.

Philippou explained that Harvard now qualifies for a Community Septic Management Program that offers low cost interest rate loans for connections if you are in a district that is designated as a priority district, but O'Brien was uninterested.

"My system is running at an optimal level," O'Brien said. "We pumped it two years ago, we replaced the pump on it once, and it's been inspected, which it's not even required to be inspected anymore, it runs so well. I think it's safer, and I'm not convinced that the alternative sewer system (that we hook up to) will do as good as this."

Philippou and board member, Lorin Johnson, suggested that O'Brien present his case to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, and see if he could get an exception to the Title 5 regulation.

Nashoba Associated Board of Health sanitarian, Ira Grossman, and board member Sharon McCarthy, said that would do no good since DEP is very cut and dry with its rules.

As Johnson agreed with Grossman and McCarthy, he said is worth a try.

"I don't think you're going to get very far with DEP, but it does make sense and I think if there's a crack in the system, it may work," Johnson said.

"All I'm saying here is if O'Brien wants to take it to that level I don't see why we would stand in the way of it," Philippou added.

As Philippou and Johnson approved a motion to grant O'Brien 60 days to present his argument to DEP and receive a response, McCarthy and Grossman were in disagreement.

"If no one ever allowed any time for people to challenge the DEP then nothing would ever change, so we will give you that time, so good luck." Philippou said.

The Board of Health also discussed plans to advertise its acceptance into the Community Septic Management Program allowing for very low interest rates on loans to people who are required to hook up to town sewer.

The program has been approved and will be forthcoming shortly. People should be on the lookout for information on the Board of Health website.

The next Board of Health meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 7 p.m. at Hildreth House.

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