Barnstable County is keeping a database for new innovative/alternative (I/A) septic systems, namely those that include denitrification technology across Buzzards Bay as far as Westport, and Marion Board of Health member Dot Brown wants Marion in on that action.
Though Marion is part of Plymouth County, Barnstable County, she said, is focused on Buzzards Bay with this effort and, as a county dominated by coastal municipalities, the effort to lower the levels of nitrogen in its many harbors is a priority.
As Brown explained to fellow board members Ed Hoffer and John Howard during the BOH’s September 7 Zoom meeting, Barnstable County has offered to routinely look over newly installed I/A systems to ensure they meet the state’s standards and thereby become part of the database.
“We would rarely have to be involved in that unless there was a real issue,” said Brown, noting that while Marion had monitored new I/A systems a couple of times per year at the outset, then less frequently, the arrangement proposed by Barnstable County would alleviate Marion of that legwork.
The grant-funded program has money for 20 new Marion systems to be monitored, and only five were installed in 2021 since Marion adopted the regulation requiring denitrification technology in any new septic construction.
According to Public Health Director/Nurse Lori Desmarais, Marion has 21 I/A systems, five of which were installed since the adoption of the regulation, making those five and the next 15 new I/A systems eligible for grant-funded monitoring by Barnstable County. The 16 owners who had already installed their I/A systems prior to Marion’s adoption of a denitrification regulation are required to monitor and report per state law.
Brown collaborated with Desmarais and Administrative Assistant Maureen Murphy to pour through town paperwork and review each installation to furnish Barnstable County with necessary information.
Marion Board of Health Chair Ed Hoffer asked if a formal agreement in writing is included in the proposed arrangement. Brown said she will request a written agreement.
BOH member John Howard asked if Plymouth County has such a program, but Brown said she does not think so, given that much of the county is made up of inland towns. Howard also asked if the state specifies who receives the monitoring reports in the case of failure to follow up with the BOH on the part of the owner.
“We have the teeth. We’re the ones who can close the property. Barnstable County can’t do that,” said Brown, who plans to follow up with George Heufelder of Barnstable County to iron out any wrinkles and satisfy the concerns of her fellow board members, including a written agreement. Then the BOH will vote on the matter.
In her report to the board, Desmarais told members that COVID-19 cases are on the rise. Of the total 467 Marion has seen since the beginning of the pandemic, five are active; there were 13 cases in July, 29 in August, and five so far this first full week of September.
Of the 29 positive tests in August, 13 were sequenced and 10 came back with the Delta variant; 14 of the 29 had been vaccinated. “So, the Delta variant also gets people who are vaccinated,” she said.
Desmarais reported that the Pfizer COVID-19 booster shot is expected to be ready before Moderna’s, sometime around September 21. When available, Marion will offer the Moderna booster vaccine.
The Old Rochester School District adopted the state’s mask mandate, which runs through October 1. ORR schools are not conducting pool testing this academic year but are conducting testing in the case of potential exposure, evidence of virus-related symptoms, or a positive test result.
Tabor Academy students moved in over the weekend, and school-wide testing was held and will continue on a weekly basis through September when the issue will be reevaluated.
Desmarais says a shipment of the flu vaccine is due next week, and she plans to hold clinics during the September 19 or September 26 week, hopefully in a drive-thru format. She said that 120 high-dose vaccines are coming at the end of next week with a sign-up list. The Color-brand scheduling platform will be used in Marion for vaccine distribution.
There will be a Health Fair in October at the Cushing Community Center where blood pressure and blood sugar tests will be conducted, and a fall oral rabies vaccine will be distributed via aircraft from September 13 to October 8.
Marion’s beaches passed the test in 2021, as Desmarais reported no failures. Signage and permit numbers will be reviewed to meet state requirements.
“I hoped Covid would be on wane by now, by the virus has other ideas. The vaccine is still the number-one tool that we need to keep pushing,” said Hoffer.
The next meeting of the Marion Board of Health is scheduled for Tuesday, September 21, at 4:00 pm.
Marion Board of Health
By Mick Colageo