Strategies for Rural Development in Areas with Limited Public Infrastructure: Alternative Septic Systems

Benefits of Decentralized Systems

Decentralized Systems Protect Community Values

When septic systems are properly designed, installed, and maintained, they protect public health, drinking water supplies, and the water quality of nearby lakes, ponds, rivers, and coastal areas. Successful management of these systems preserves property values, and they can be less expensive than a conventional centralized sewer system in terms of both construction and long-term maintenance costs. Decentralized systems under good management can help Maine communities achieve their growth and development goals while preserving their residents’ quality of life.

Maine Drinking Water Program's Andy Tolman, Assistant Director and James Jacobsen, Project Manager, Subsurface Wastewater Unit discuss the link between well-managed septic sysytems and clean drinking water.

Compact Development Reduces Sprawl and Preserves Open Space

Thanks to advances in the science and practice of wastewater disposal, there is no need for municipalities to require large lots in growth areas to accommodate subsurface wastewater disposal. There may be excellent reasons for requiring larger lots in the designated rural areas of a comprehensive plan, but providing additional space for leach fields is not among them.

Within growth areas, the minimum lot size using septic systems will be larger than for a lot served by a public sewer system, because subsurface disposal areas must still meet specified separation distances.  However, it is almost always feasible to meet public health and safety standards on a 20,000 square foot lot. Proven modern methods for placement of decentralized wastewater disposal and drinking water supplies make it possible to balance the preservation of rural open space with denser development in a compact village or a small-town growth center.  The Town of New Gloucester has already embraced the concepts of minimum lot sizes and community wastewater disposal, as reflected in its revised performance standards for Open Space Subdivisions in its zoning ordinance.  For more information on New Gloucester’s incentives for compact development, click here.


Related Work Plan Components

Workgroup Contacts

In Aroostook County: Jay Kamm, Ken Murchison, Joella Theriault

In Washington County: Judy East