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Construction on Nantucket Part 2: City vs. “Country” Services

Now that we touched on zoning and allowable footprint in Part One: Finding the Right Property to Build of this series, let’s talk about available services: city vs. country.

DocumentWater on Nantucket:

Nantucket has amazing fresh water quality from both the municipal service and from private wells. The town, via Wannacomet Water Company, services the Downtown, Mid Island, Hummock Pond, Cisco, Madaket, Surfside, Miacomet and ’Sconset areas, while sections like Wauwinet, Pocomo, Quidnet and Polpis are serviced by private wells. Luckily, most areas enjoying the same high-quality water that comes from our aquifer located not far from the Town’s main rotary. water-glass

Sewer vs. Septic on Nantucket:

This is a moving target, so depending on when you are reading this, things may have changed some. I will touch very quickly on these items but if you want to get into greater detail, I am happy to chat or point you in the direction of the right person. And as an FYI for those of you who may be wondering, our sewer plant is located in Miacomet at the end of South Shore Road.

Many of Nantucket’s core district areas, as well as a significant portion of  ’Sconset, are currently serviced by sewer. When you live on a property that is serviced by town sewer, you are not restricted to the number of bedrooms you can have in the allowed footprint (as described in Part One of this series). Now let’s talk quickly about on-site disposal systems known as septic systems.  Here are the the Town of Nantucket sewer districts:

Download (PDF, 883KB)

There are areas on island that are serviced by town water and septic systems, I won’t pretend to understand how the calculations for creating these systems work, it largely depends on the ground soils. Some parts of Nantucket are just all sand and others are full of clay not allowing the soil to “perk” its best to enlist a local engineer to test the soils and design a system to meet your needs. I do know that you will get more bedrooms on a septic system that is serviced by Town water.

There are areas on island that are serviced by town water and septic systems – as opposed to town water and sewer – and are designated as such largely in in part to the type of ground soils in the area. Some parts of Nantucket’s soil are all sand while others are full of clay, not allowing the soil to “perk.” I would recommend enlisting a local engineer to test the soils and design a system to meet your needs. I do know, however, that you will get more bedrooms on a septic system that is serviced by town water instead of a private well.

Now a quick word on systems serviced by a private well and a septic system. The general guideline is that you can have 1 bedroom for every 10,000 sq. ft. of land (so a one-acre lot – 40,000 sq. ft. – can have a 4 bedroom house in the 2800 sq. ft. footprint mentioned in Part One.) Nowadays, the technology has improved and the engineers have designed “advanced” systems that will meet the necessary requirements, so sometimes you may be able to push your plans above the State of Massachusetts guidelines outlined above.


Nantucket works hard to maintain and improve the water quality of its harbors and natural resource areas. In fact, an effort is currently underway to bring sewer to districts that haven’t had it before. These areas are considered sensitive harbor and water shed districts and they are: Madaket, Monomoy, Shimmo, Hummock Pond and the Somerset area. Sewer is planned to come to Monomoy and Shimmo in 2-3 years, and this coming fall, the body of Town Meeting will vote to bring sewer to Madaket and Hummock Pond. Until the time that sewer comes to these areas, there are requirements that are mandated locally for septic systems. I defer to the very talented local land engineers and surveyors to help you design and understand these systems, so please call us at Fisher if you would like a referral.

*Side note: There is no city gas on Nantucket – all gas is delivered by private companies to individual on-site storage tanks.

If you enjoyed PART ONE and PART TWO of our construction series of blogs, read PART THREE: TIMING YOUR BUILD.

Brian Sullivan

Originally hailing from Weston, Massachusetts, Brian came to Nantucket in 1996 intending to stay for just the summer. As often happens, he found himself being drawn in by the Island’s allure and immediately set about building a dynamic career spanning over 20 years in Nantucket real estate. Brian loves the puzzle and challenge of matching people to property, and believes that there is something for everyone here on Nantucket if you look hard enough. As one of the top brokers on the Island, to date he has participated in hundreds of millions in transactions and has been quoted by CNNMoney and Barron’s.

Brian truly embodies the Nantucket lifestyle, taking advantage of all the unique outdoor opportunities the Island offers and throwing himself into the local community. Seemingly squeezing 48 hours worth of work and activities into 24, Brian sits on numerous Boards and Committees, including the Maria Mitchell Association, and was appointed by the Nantucket Board of Selectmen to the Affordable Housing Trust. He lives on the Island year round with his wife, Tess, owner of The Hub Nantucket, and their son, Fisher.