SHIRLEY -- When Kate Pulvermacher came to the Board of Health a couple of weeks ago, the engineer she and her husband Brad had hired to design a new septic system for a property they plan to buy on Garrison Road couldn't make it due to a family emergency.

But health board members and the town's professional sanitarian, Ira Grossman of Nashoba Associated Boards of Health, had concerns about the engineer's septic plan, which is substantially different than the traditional "trench system" they prefer.

The engineer, Mark Farrell of Green Hill Engineering, apparently disagrees. With the issue again on the health board agenda, he showed up with Kate Pulvermacher and her father, with whom the couple is living in town while they wait to move in to their new home. After they buy it, that is, with their mortgage lender holding off on the closing until the septic system issue is resolved.

The Pulvermachers, who relocated from Texas, bought the bank-owned property "as is," and must fix the failed septic system and any other major problems before the sale goes through.

"We perked it and submitted a chambered design" to accommodate the high water table and slow perk rate, but the health board didn't like it. Farrell said, so he revised the plan for a more common "trench" system design. But the location of the system was changed due to the property's sloping topography.

He pointed out issues he sees as problematic, but whether the end result is a system of chambers or trenches, he would have preferred more space.


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His original plan covered 900 square feet, he said, which is more than is required but will last longer.

The problematic site sparked the alternative idea in the first place, Farrell explained, and it is allowable under Title 5. "Trenches do work beautifully, but in this case it could add cost," he said, about $20,000 more than his original plan.

Farrrell said he'd spoken with Grossman and if test holes are the problem he's worried about, the company can fix that.

Members wondered how it was possible to get an accurate estimate without a permitted design, but Donald Farrar said the health board's focus was not cost but whether the septic system works properly.

"Are you getting bids?" he asked Pulvermacher.

"We did, for the original plan," she replied. She asked if that option had been ruled out.

Now, the clock is ticking. The loan rate they were locked into expires at the end of the week, she said.

After some discussion, the board agreed to approve the new plan so the Real Estate deal could move forward, with the option of amending it later if the Pulvermachers still want to go with the first septic plan devised by their engineer and he provides additional test results that show it will work properly.

But if they decide to stick with the trench system instead, there's a way to make paying for it easier, Farrar said. He described a state-funded loan program the town participates in that offers a four-percent interest rate and can be paid back over 20 years. Besides accepting the septic system design, the board also approved several variances that will allow the project to move forward.