image of barnstable county courthouse

Wastewater: Plumbing All the Alternatives

Hidden away at the Otis Air National Guard Base in Buzzards Bay is the country’s largest alternative septic system test center. On a recent morning, raw sewage trickled through a shallow trench, feeding about 15 different septic systems scattered in a field, each one accompanied by a small shack with a monitoring station.

George Heufelder, director of the Massachusetts Alternative Septic System Test Center, stood beside the trench in jeans and a battered baseball cap, explaining how the wastewater — about 250,000 gallons per day — is controlled to mimic household usage, with most of the flow in the morning and evening. The system can also simulate a home with working parents, with no flow in the day; or washday stresses, as when a family returns from vacation.

“We try to simulate all those stress tests along with doing the standard protocol,” said Mr. Heufelder, who tests each design according to National Sanitation Foundation standards. He also heads the Barnstable County department of health and environment, which monitors about 18,000 alternative/innovative (I/A) septic systems from Woods Hole to Provincetown. – See more at: