ESSEX — If there is a prospective growth industry at Conomo Point this summer, it could be in the care and maintenance of septic systems.
Beginning July 15, dwellers in the rocky seaside colony must begin the process of proving the efficiency of their water-discharge systems.
Or in the words of town officials, "Individual property owners or leaseholders will be required to find on-site waste solutions that comply with Title 5 of the State Environmental Code."
"Residents will have to come up to compliance," said Elaine Wozny, administrator of the town's Board of Health. "Not everyone will have to get an inspection because, if they know they have failed, they'll skip an inspection and begin on the work.
"I couldn't guess how many are not in compliance, but every resident will have to eventually have to file a certificate of compliance with us."
If a system does not meet emission standards, residents do have a fallback position.
"They can consider tight tanks," said Town Administrator Brendhan Zubricki. "These are enclosed tanks that are pumped out (by private companies) on a regular schedule."
There are about 103 residences at Conomo Point, about 35 of which are year-round, according to town figures.
Wozny said the state Department of Environmental Protection is pushing for improvements because of the neighborhood's proximity to the ocean — and because the earth at Conomo Point is not conducive to absorbing effluent.
There is no sewer system to Conomo Point, and local and state officials agree it would be impractical to attempt to develop one. So dwellers there will continue with septic solutions, but with more oversight.
Residents there will be faced with the added monitoring because of an agreement between the town and the state.
The state DEP has ruled that when a property is held by a single owner (in this case, the town of Essex), "the total combined calculated wastewater flow of all the septic systems on the property must be limited to 10,000 gallons per day."
The total combined calculated flow for Conomo Point is currently about 30,000 gallons per day, according to documents on the town's website.
Specifically, the DEP says that septic systems that would remain in use after Dec. 31, 2011 — and that passed an inspection previously — will be re-inspected between July 15, 2011, and Sept. 1, 2012. Copies of the Title 5 inspection will be submitted to the Board of Health by Sept. 15, 2012.
In lieu of inspection, owners may provide the Board of Health with agreements to upgrade the systems.
Systems that were previously identified as failing or have an agreement in place to upgrade may be used until they come into compliance.
But if at any time a system is found to create a hazard to public health or the environment, state and town officials can order corrective action.
John Duncan, who owns Duncan Tree, Landscape and Construction Co., which does work at Conomo Point, said that a septic-system inspection could cost $300 to $1,000. He said remedial work on a faulty system might cost between $10,000 and $40,000.
A tight-tank system could cost $8,000 to $10,000, and then the dweller would have to pay a pumping fee, he said.
"A lot of systems here have been inspected and many have failed," said Duncan. "So if people are going to go ahead and fix them, they could be facing bills that they wish weren't so large."
Dyke Hendrickson may be contacted at 978-283-7000 x3451 or firstname.lastname@example.org.