Board of Health Annual Report, 2000

The Board, consisting of members Mary Krapf (chair), Chris Allen and Cedwyn Morgan meets at 8:00 p.m. on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of each month at Town Hall. We encourage interested townspeople to attend a meeting and enjoy the Altoids. Our Health Agent, Jim Gareffi, attended most meetings during 2000. We regret that Jim was recently re-assigned by the Nashoba Associated Boards of Health to other communities, but look forward to working with new agent Rob Overton.

The major issues addressed by the Board are highlighted below.

Septic Systems - Real estate activity in Ashby continues unabated, and septic system permitting for new systems or upgrades typically occupies the majority of the time at BOH meetings. New development (25 permits) outpaced upgrades (20 permits) in 2000. Septic system applications are managed by our Agent, who witnessed 190 lot tests and performed 130 plan reviews (some of these are multiple actions for one system), suggesting that the pace of development is unlikely to slow next year. The Board enacted new septic system regulations that provide additional protection to surface waters by establishing a setback to Outstanding Resource Waters, and prohibit septic systems that create a hazard to traffic by impairing visibility. The required offset to ground water was reduced from five feet to four feet because soil mottling is now used as part of the determination of ground water level, usually resulting in a more conservative (shallower) depth to ground water.

Waste Disposal – Our contract with Schofield, Inc. to operate the transfer station was completed in June, 2000. In July, the town resumed curbside pickup through a contract with Murray Excavating (Murray). The current contract is based on a flat fee to Murray of $1000 per month for the first 500 bags, with a payment of $2 per bag for each additional bag. The number of bags per month has fluctuated between less than 500 and about 900, with the December 2000 total being about 750 bags. A Solid Waste Committee of concerned citizens has assisted the Board with waste disposal and recycling issues. The Committee is actively investigating more efficient means of operation, including regional cooperatives and alternative recycling vendors.

In 1999 the Board enacted solid waste hauler regulations to regulate the commercial solid waste business in Ashby. Although it has been a bit of a struggle to gain compliance from several waste companies, all active waste haulers now have solid waste permits and we expect continued compliance.

Landfill – The landfill closure was largely completed by Schofield in 1999, but final vegetation and miscellaneous minor issues remained to be addressed as we entered 2000. Loam and seed was applied to the landfill in the spring of 2000, and some drainage work was performed. However, there are a number of minor final issues remaining to be addressed, including but not limited to adequate documentation for filings with the state, and touching up the vegetation. Schofield’s new owners have not been responsive to our requests for full completion of the project, and the town is withholding payment of a portion of the contract. Full documentation is expected to be received in January 2001, after which regulatory approval of the closure is expected.

Flares installed to control odor emissions from the closed landfill have been effective. The town will be required to monitor ground water quality and methane at the landfill for the foreseeable future. After the closure is certified, we will request to the DEP that the schedule of required monitoring be decreased.

Town engineer Paul Bergquist provided oversight for the closure project, and continues to manage the remaining aspects of the closure and the ongoing monitoring requirements.

As reported in previous annual reports, the Board had entered into the contract to use the landfill as a construction and demolition waste landfill because we saw no other feasible way to fund the state-mandated landfill closure. The revenue generated was more than sufficient to 100% of the landfill-capping project. At this year’s town meeting, the town voted to spend some of the excess funds in the landfill escrow account to purchase open space near downtown. The Board did not take a position on the vote because we felt that our mandate extended only to managing the funds needed to close the landfill. However, we are pleased that landfill project, which was a necessary evil that we all would have preferred to avoid, also resulted in a long-term benefit for the town.

A small number of individuals continue to illegally deposit wastes at the gates to the landfill. This is a burden on the taxpayers, and we encourage anyone who becomes aware of persons doing so to report the identify of the culprits to the Ashby Police and the Board of Health.

Miscellaneous - The Board, through its agent Nashoba, has performed sanitary inspections of commercial food facilities throughout the Town. The Board has also been involved in miscellaneous activities regarding water supply, animal control, etc., some of which have resulted in enforcement actions. Our thanks to Allen Phillips for his long and dedicated service as Animal Control officer.

Mr. Mike’s Ground Water Contamination – The environmental remediation system was finally activated at Mr. Mikes approximately 7 years after the Board and concerned citizens successfully petitioned the DEP to make the Mr. Mikes site a "Tier 1A" (highest regulatory priority) contamination site, and to make the site a ‘Public Involvement Plan Site" under 310 CMR 40.0000. While in the Board’s opinion these activities should have been completed many years ago, we are pleased that they are finally underway.

Public Health – Board chairperson Mary Krapf has been actively involved, along with many other members of the community, in the efforts to restore Burbank Hospital to a fully constructive use. These efforts have been partially successful in that part-time emergency care and other services are available at Burbank. However, because 24-hour emergency care is not available, we are not satisfied. The Board feels that anything less than a 24-hour emergency room at Burbank Hospital is a threat to public health, because of the unreasonably long transport times to other hospitals. Mary is currently working with a group to pressure the state Department of Public Health to enforce their until-now-ignored regulations regarding access to health care.

Thank You – The Board wishes to express our appreciation to Sue Pelto and Gail Farley for their administrative assistance, and to Jim Gareffi, who performed his often difficult task with integrity, consideration, and good humor.

Respectfully submitted,

Cedwyn Morgan, Member