County Can Help Pay For Sewer Connections

by Tim Wood

Barnstable County’s AquiFund Program, which provides low-interest loans to help homeowners upgrade septic systems and pay for sewer connections, will be applying for $13 million in new funding from the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust.

With Chatham, Harwich, Orleans and other Cape towns expanding sewer systems, the program anticipates an influx of applications, said Brian Baumgaertel, director of the Massachusetts Alternative Septic System Test Center. There could be more than 26,000 new sewer connections in the next decade, he said, as well as thousands of septic system upgrades and alternate septic system installations.

“We’re talking about some pretty big numbers,” he said.

The program, which has been around since 2006, last year created a tiered system for septic and sewer loans. Loans to help pay for new sewer connections are available at zero and 2 percent interest. Households with income less than 120 percent of the Barnstable County Area Median Income (AIM) are eligible for the zero percent loans; households with income between 120 and 180 percent of AIM qualify for 2 percent interest loans; households about 180 percent of AIM qualify for 4 percent interest loans. Title 5 septic system upgrades and repairs, as well as installation of innovative/alternative systems, qualify for 4 percent interest loans.

The program handles about 300 applications a year, Baumgaertel said. Over the past 18 years, it has provided $62.4 million in low-interest loans to 4,814 homeowners. Loans are for a maximum of 20 years.

Through the program, county officials hope to encourage homeowners to connect to sewers, where available, or upgrade to nitrogen-reduction systems to reduce nutrient loading in coastal waters. Septic systems don’t remove nutrients, and one of the goals of the program is to eliminate as many as possible.

“It’s still a long time before we get rid of them all,” Baumgaertel said.

Barnstable County Commissioner Mark Forest said funding from the state Clean Water Trust provides invaluable help in meeting the county’s goals. “The AquiFund program is crucial to tackling our wastewater issues and the severe environmental challenges we face on the Cape,” he said in a statement.

For more details about the AquiFund Program and to apply online, visit