Westfield Board of Health may reset perc season

WESTFIELD, Mass. (The Westfield News) – The Board of Health voted Wednesday night to grant variances to allow out-of-season percolation tests done to determine if soil conditions will support installation of a septic system.

Health Director Joseph Rouse said Westfield is one of a few communities in the area still to have a “perc test season” which is defined as being from February through May.

“The rational for having a perc season was to do the test during the wettest months of the year,” Rouse said. “The policy criterion also requires a hardship, usually economic, to justify doing it out of season.”

Part of the test procedure is to saturate the soil, then time the absorption of water into soil. During the wettest months, the worst case scenario will result in the slowest perc rate, so if it passes the testing then, it will pass at any time of the year.

Rouse said there are two components to the process, the perc test and a soil examination to determine seasonal high ground water table which could require construction of a raised septic system. State law requires that the bottom of the septic system has to be at least four feet above the seasonal high ground water mark.

“But we look at the soils now and if it’s done right it doesn’t matter when you do it,” Rouse said, “so we may have to revisit this policy. Perc season has to be extended, maybe a split season with a four-month spring season and a shorter fall season during September and October.

“We do get a lot of variance application this time of the year, September and October, because it’s the last good weather for construction before winter,” Rouse said.

“Contractors are conscious that we have a perc season, so typically it’s people who are trying to sell a vacant lot or building their own house,” Rouse said. “The economic hardship is that they cannot sell land or build unless it has passed a perc test as a buildable lot.”

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Media Credit: The Westfield News

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