COTUIT -- 08/01/22 -- APCC intern Leah Stucke prepares to throw a plankton tow net into Lovells Pond to take a water sample early Monday morning. Merrily Cassidy/Cape Cod Times

MA - Healey tax credit could help ease cost of septic system repairs

Proposal would double credit amount from $6,000 top $12,000

A SINGLE SENTENCE in Gov. Maura Healey’s tax plan that went largely under the radar during the governor’s media tour last week could mean a significant investment in clean water on Cape Cod, according to lawmakers and environmental advocates.

In her $859 million tax relief package, Healey proposed doubling the maximum credit for septic tank repair or replacement in primary residences from $6,000 to $12,000.

Failed and underperforming septic systems are a leading cause of pollution in Cape Cod’s fresh and saltwater systems. Nitrogen and phosphorus in human waste leak from septic tanks into the groundwater, which then flow into bays, estuaries, rivers, and ponds.

These accumulating chemicals in natural water systems encourage the growth of toxic algae and bacteria called cyanobacteria, leading to increasingly frequent closures of lakes, ponds, and beaches in the summer on the Cape. Nitrogen and phosphorus also deplete oxygen from the water, resulting in large-scale fish kills.

“Beaches get shut down every year because of water pollution, and that has impacts on our fishing industry, particularly on shellfishing, and our very vibrant tourism industry. Anything we can do to protect water quality is a really strong step to protecting our environment and economy on the Cape and Islands,” said Rep. Dylan Fernandes of Falmouth.


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The Association to Preserve Cape Cod, an environmental nonprofit that monitors and collects data on cyanobacteria, found that the coastal embayments that serve as important wildlife habitats are quickly degrading.

Between 2019 and 2022, the rate of “unacceptable” water quality in these small bay ecosystems climbed from 68 percent up to 90 percent, according to APCC’s annual State of the Water report.

“It’s a very encouraging early sign that the new administration understands the challenges that we face on Cape Cod to upgrade inadequate septic systems,” said APCC director Andrew Gottlieb.

Current state law allows homeowners whose primary residence is in Massachusetts to receive a tax credit equal to 40 percent of the amount to design and install a septic system to replace or repair a failed system in their yard. The credit covers 40 percent of the actual cost, with a maximum credit of $6,000. A homeowner who receives a full $6,000 credit under the current regulation gets credit installments of $1,500 each tax year for four years.

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