GROTON -- A gap in the town's zoning bylaw dealing with septic regulations has set the Sewer Commission and Board of Health at loggerheads over which holds responsibility for enforcing a key provision of the law.
According to Sewer Commission chairman James Gmeiner, the bylaw addresses the requirement in the state's Title 5 septic regulations that homeowners or businesses with property by which a local sewer line passes must hook up within two years of the line being installed.
Furthermore, owners must also connect if property they intend to sell fails a Title 5 septic inspection.
The problem is that the town's bylaw covering the state regulations does not designate which person or department is responsible for enforcing the law.
Gmeiner said that for years, the requirements of the law itself have been quietly ignored due to many homeowners who spent tens of thousands of dollars to upgrade their septic systems before the installation of a local sewer line.
It seemed unfair to force such people to pay thousands more to make a connection they did not need, he noted.
In addition, the Sewer Commission chairman said that a mitigating factor in not forcing those homeowners to hook up has been their payments of ongoing betterment fees to the Sewer Department in lieu of making the required connection.
Besides always having been bothered by the ambiguity in the enforcement provision of the law, Gmeiner said that bringing up the issue with the Board of Health at the latter's meeting of Aug. 5 was triggered by plans to construct a new medical office building off Boston Road.
That, and other businesses that have cropped up before from the Shaw's supermarket to the CVS with their large scale septic needs, impressed upon him the need to get serious about the bylaw.
What Gmeiner wanted from the BOH was a settlement between the boards on which department would take responsibility for enforcing the law.
Once the question had been settled, the Sewer Commission planned to seek an amendment to the bylaw at town meeting that would specifically state which department would enforce the provision.
But health agent Ira Grossman took exception to any suggestion that it might be the board's responsibility. He cited the fact that the bylaw voted upon by residents at town meeting did not specify whose responsibility it was.
Recognizing the need to discuss the issue further with Grossman, members of the BOH decided to hold off until a meeting in September to revisit the issue with the Sewer Commission.