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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Septic System?
A septic system, sometimes called an on-site sanitary disposal system, is a two step treatment and disposal process of wastewater generated by your house or business. The wastewater flows into the septic tank, the first step, where large solids are settled to the bottom and scum is floated on the surface. The liquid portion then ultimately goes to a final dispersion area where wastewater is percolated into the subsoil where it is purified prior to entering the groundwater. 

What is a percolation and soil test and how are they performed? 
A percolation test is an approximate measure to determine the soil's percolation capacity. At least two percolation tests must be conducted for new construction. The percolation test is generally performed at a depth of three to four feet below ground in a hand-dug hole, which is filled with water to a twelve-inch depth. The time it takes the water to drop over a specified distance provides the percolation rate.

A soil test, or deep observation hole, is performed along with the percolation test to observe the soil profile in the area of a proposed septic system. An observation hole is excavated by a backhoe to a depth of approximately ten feet. A certified soil evaluator records the various soil characteristics and determines estimated seasonal high groundwater conditions at the soil test location.

What is a Septic System Plan?
A septic system plan is required for all new construction of homes and for existing homes with a failed septic system. The septic system plan shows existing and proposed topographic features, house, driveway, utilities, water supply and septic system location. In addition, construction details, profiles and cross-sections of the septic system are shown to provide a contractor with detailed information to properly build the septic system and complete the necessary site work.

What are wetlands and who determines their boundaries?
Wetlands are generally defined by the types of vegetation, soils and hydrology in a certain area. There are many types of "wetland resource areas", however the most common is a bordering vegetated wetland and is defined where at least 50% of the vegetation is considered wetland vegetation, hydric (wet) soil conditions are present, hydrology (water) is available to support the plants and the area borders or is hydraulically connected to a lake, river or stream. Therefore, areas that may not appear to be "wet" could be classified as a bordering vegetated wetland if the above characteristics are present.

The local Conservation Commission enforces regulations protecting the various types of wetland resource areas through state regulations and local wetland bylaws. 

Why do I need to obtain a permit from the local Conservation Commission?
Generally, any type of construction and/or landscaping activity within one hundred feet of a wetland resource area or two hundred of a perennial river or stream requires a permit from the local Conservation Commission.

The type of application may vary depending upon the magnitude of the specific activity and would include a Determination of Applicability or a Notice of Intent.

Additional permits may be required from state and federal agencies for certain wetland resource areas and uses within or near these resource areas.


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