Protecting Public Health and Water Resources through Testing, Monitoring and Research

Our water quality and wastewater programs provide testing, monitoring and research in every stage of water use; from recreation, to drinking, to wastewater disposal.

Drinking, Surface and Ground Water

The Barnstable County Water Quality Laboratory provides high quality analytical services to our region’s private residents and municipalities alike. Accordingly, the Laboratory assists water departments on Cape Cod in meeting the monitoring requirements necessary for adherence to state and federal water quality standards. Water departments benefit from the flexibility of the Laboratory to assist when periodic problems arise, such as the seasonal and transient occurrences of bacterial contamination in the water systems.

The Laboratory also provides analytical services to owners of private drinking water wells. Sample pick-up is provided in the towns of Wellfleet, Truro, Eastham, Brewster, Falmouth and Mashpee. In 2021, the Barnstable County Laboratory received over 16,000 samples and performed over 87,000 analyses.

Finally, the Laboratory supports Barnstable County’s groundwater and recreational monitoring initiatives, including the Landfill Monitoring Program which provides surveillance of groundwater plumes beneath Cape Cod’s landfills and the Bathing Beaches Monitoring Program, which conducts collection, analysis and reporting of bathing beach water Cape-wide from Memorial Day through Labor Day annually.

Wastewater

All 15 of Barnstable County’s towns rely on a single source aquifer–the Cape Cod Aquifer– for 100% of their drinking water needs, making effective wastewater management essential to public health and environmental protection in our region. The Department does this through three self sustaining programs:

The Innovative/Alternative (I/A) Septic System Tracking Program assists towns with monitoring their I/A septic systems at no cost. An internet database collects inspection reports and effluent monitoring results, and it also allows regulators the ability to track compliance for 3,600 I/A systems across the Cape, Islands and Southeastern Massachusetts.

The Community Septic Management Loan Program provides an effective and efficient means of financially assisting area residents with often cost-prohibitive yet essential septic system requirements.

The Massachusetts Alternative Septic System Test Center is the nation’s premier test-bed for academic institutions and private industry alike, diverting untreated wastewater from Joint Base Cape Cod where it is used to simulate residential wastewater influent. This allows for the active investigation and development of products that focus on nitrogen reduction to protect sensitive marine resources.

September 19-23rd is Septic Smart Week!

EPA’s SepticSmart program is a nation-wide initiative to share information on the proper care and maintenance of septic systems and encourage public stewardship in caring for these wastewater treatment systems.

Click here to read the Barnstable County Commissioner’s Official Proclamation

Over 90% of homes on Cape Cod use septic systems to treat their residential wastewater. If your septic system is not properly maintained you may be risking your family’s health, hurting the environment, and flushing thousands of dollars down the drain.

Follow these SepticSmart quick tips every day:

  1. Think at the Sink!
    Learn what not to put down your kitchen sink (such as fats, oils, or greases), how to properly dispose of food waste and how to use cleaning supplies in moderation.
  2. Don’t Strain Your Drain!
    Learn about the importance of using water efficiently, staggering water use of water- based appliances and using energy efficient appliances.
  3. Keep It Clean!
    Learn about the importance of testing your well water, and its relationship to your septic system.
  4. Shield Your Field!
    Learn about your septic system’s drainfield, including how it works, and tips to take care of it.
  5. Protect It and Inspect It!
    Learn about a typical septic system inspection, how often an inspection should be performed and considerations for advanced systems.
  6. Don’t Overload the Commode!
    Learn about what can be flushed down the toilet, and what should be thrown in the trash.
  7. Pump Your Tank!
    Learn about a typical septic tank pump-out service, and how a septic tank works.

Learn how septic systems work and get simple, everyday tips on how to properly maintain them.

Learn how septic systems work and get simple, everyday tips on how to properly maintain them.

How Septic Systems Work | US EPA

How to care for your septic system

How to resolve septic system malfunctions

How septic systems impact water sources

 

Barnstable County Receives EPA Grant to Develop a Low-Cost Wastewater Utility for Advanced Onsite Septic Systems 

September 26, 2022 (Barnstable, MA) | Utilizing Bipartisan Infrastructure Law grant funds of $1.15M from the US EPA’s Southeastern New England Program (SNEP) and $100K from The Nature Conservancy, the County is in the process of implementing a regional Responsible Management Entity (RME) Program over a 5-year period. The […]

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September 19-23rd is Septic Smart Week!

EPA’s SepticSmart program is a nation-wide initiative to share information on the proper care and maintenance of septic systems and encourage public stewardship in caring for these wastewater treatment systems. […]

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Barnstable County Commissioner’s Adopt a Proclamation for SepticSmart Week: September 19-23rd

The proclamation, signed by Barnstable County Commissioners on September 21, reads as follows: WHEREAS, proper septic system use and routine care are vital to protecting public health and preserving our […]

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The New Republic: Vacation Towns Have a Controversial Poop Problem

In the following excerpt, The New Republic author Keely Larson interviews Barnstable County Department of Health and Environment’s Brian Baumgaertel, Director of the Massachusetts Alternative Septic System Test Center (MASSTC). […]

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Wastewater’s Impacts On Natural Dye Plant Growth & Color

What if wastewater wasn’t waste at all? What if the valuable nutrients excreted from our bodies could be captured and recycled for useful means? Out at Barnstable County’s Massachusetts Alternative Septic […]

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WCAI: Managing Wastewater – Practices and Technologies to Keep our Bays, Estuaries, and Aquifers Clean

July 13, 2021 | WCAI’s The Point host Mindy Todd interviews Brian Baumgaertel, Senior Environmental Specialist with the Barnstable County Department of Health and Environment, Director of the Massachusetts Alternative Septic […]

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