October 16 marked the last day of NEIWPCC’s most recent eight-session soil evaluator certification course, which trains engineers, designers, local Boards of Health members, and others to make decisions regarding onsite septic systems in accordance with Title 5 of Massachusetts law.

Top of one of the test pits from the Soil Evaluator field session in Southampton, Mass. on October 4.

A major consideration when installing a septic system is how well the soil at a proposed site will absorb, and ultimately treat, wastewater – that is, the capacity of the soil to percolate. The Title 5 Soil Evaluator course focuses on using soil properties to determine soil suitability for septic systems.

Among other requirements, certified soil evaluators must be able to identify a site’s seasonal high groundwater table and to classify soil based on horizon (layer), color, texture, and parent material.

They must also have a working understanding of Massachusetts’ topography and glacial history, and be able to use geographic information systems (GIS) technology and other online resources to inform their decisions.

Instructor Steve Mabee gives students a geology and topography lesson atop Mt. Sugarloaf in Deerfield, Mass. on October 9.

Prospective soil evaluators earn their certification by passing both a classroom and field exam.

NEIWPCC held three class sessions, plus the classroom exam, in the month of September at the MassDEP Central Regional Office in Worcester.

NEIWPCC also held three field sessions, plus the field exam, at sites across Massachusetts to give students a chance to be exposed to and assess various soil profiles. The sites were Bradley Palmer State Park in Topsfield, Twin Orchard Farm in Southampton, University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Agronomy Farm in Deerfield, and state-owned fields in Bridgewater.

Instructor Bruce Bouck helps students classify the soil in his test pit during the Southampton session on October 4.

Experienced soil evaluators with soil science and hydrogeology expertise instruct the course.

NEIWPCC has been the sole coordinator and facilitator of the Massachusetts Title 5 SE training, on behalf of MassDEP, since 2004. The course is held twice a year and is slated to run again in the Spring of 2019.