New Septic Regulation Challenged

The Marion Board of Health is digesting a problematic interpretation of its septic regulations, as reported during the board’s Tuesday Zoom meeting by Health Agent Ana Wimmer.

            After hearing from design engineer Dave Davignon of Schneider, Davignon and Leone Inc., Wimmer brought to the board’s attention a potential discrepancy regarding the town’s requirements for the size of a septic tank versus its own sanitation code.

            She asked the board about the possibility of making a language tweak to the new septic regulation that requires denitrification technology in any new installation.

            “Maybe there’s a better way to do both things, and then you have (the basis for) a variance. … You might not have a case where it’s (a denitrification) system,” said member Dot Brown, who spearheaded the new requirement that was voted into the town’s regulations in 2020.

            Board of Health Chairman Dr. Ed Hoffer did not believe that Davignon’s system was clearly presented. “It is less than what I would consider to be a fully fleshed-out request,” he said, agreeing with Brown’s response.

            Brown said that Davignon’s case was based on an effort to avoid any additional landscaping. “We do have the offer to go to (Environmental Specialist and Public Health Sanitarian) George Heufelder at Barnstable County. … I think that’s the place to start,” said Brown. “That technology’s going to keep changing. … We need some outside expertise, and all of that cannot come from the people representing the clients.”

            Brown suggests peer review from outside the area.

            “It might be smart to change the hard-and-fast, 2,000-gallon-tank requirement to something matching our newer requirements,” suggested Wimmer, noting that Davignon’s situation led to the revelation that Marion’s sanitary code has not been updated since 2009.

            Hoffer acknowledged that some systems may require a smaller tank and, if they’re designed to work with a smaller tank, maybe the regulation ought to reflect that. As for Davignon’s specific request regarding a 1,500-gallon tank, Hoffer suggested a third-party opinion before any official response is made.

            Wimmer told the board that she will send out final Well Regulations on Wednesday, November 17, for the board’s review.

            Wimmer’s visit to 520 Front Street on November 9 revealed there is no working pump in the basement. With a broken window at the address, she reported “two and a half feet of standing water in the basement with a sheen on it.”

            The house, bearing a red-colored “X,” has been condemned and will be demolished in the spring. Because there are no plans to remediate, the property no longer falls under Chapter 2.

            Despite the property being within 500 feet of a public drinking-water supply making it a “very urgent” matter, Wimmer told the board, “It’s being handled now and ended up being a lot smoother than what we anticipated.”

            Following a review draft of the new Dumpster Regulations, the Board of Health is closing in on a final version that can go to a public hearing.

            Lingering issues discussed included the limit of on a number of residential units (three or four) that would trigger the requirement of a dumpster on site.

            “There’s no (state) requirement for any residential manager to provide … a dumpster, but starting at three or more dwelling units, the owner is responsible for managing the waste at the property,” explained Wimmer, who cautioned that too strict a code could result in a dumpster filling so slowly that the garbage rots.

            Trash is picked up on a weekly basis in Marion and recycling picked up every two weeks.

            Questioned by a liquor store owner on the merit of a food permit (and associated fee) where only prepackaged food is sold, the board agreed that a food permit is not appropriate or fair, especially since they are already paying for a license to sell alcohol and do not require food inspections as would a restaurant. Hoffer suggested though, that liquor store owners should sign an affidavit stating they will not sell open food.

            While COVID-19 numbers are rising across Massachusetts, the Town of Marion is faring better, according to Public Health Director/Nurse Lori Desmarais in her report to the board.

            Of Marion’s 583 total cases since the pandemic began in March 2020, there are currently eight active cases. Although there were 71 documented cases in October, there had only been 15 halfway through November.

            There is a complete absence of age concentration with two cases under age 12, three among ages 20-29, three among ages 30-49, two among ages 50-64, four among ages 65-75, and one over age 75.

            As of November 11, Sippican School had no one in its “test and stay” program, two were in quarantine, and none had tested positive. Sippican has had 27 cases since the start of the 2021-22 school year.

            At Old Rochester Regional High School, four were in the “test and stay” program, one was in quarantine, and two had tested positive. The high school has had 10 cases since the start of the 2021-22 school year.

            At ORR Junior High, none were in the “test and stay” program, none in quarantine, and no one had tested positive. The junior high has had nine cases since the start of the 2021-22 school year.

            Tabor Academy had no positive tests and six total cases in 2021-22; the prep school is still conducting weekly testing among 100 random personnel on Thursdays.

            Desmarais reported on a successful COVID-19 booster clinic that enlisted the assistance of UMass Dartmouth nursing students to distribute 160 doses on November 5. The remaining 40 doses (of the 200 received) will be distributed on Wednesday, November 17, between 9:00 am and 11:00 am, again with the assistance of UMD nursing students.

            There are no future COVID-19 vaccination clinics scheduled at the present time. Desmarais said the plan is to order more vaccine, gather information on town residents and then determine a course of action.

            Unlike the Town of Rochester, which will hold COVID-19 vaccination clinics for children on November 29 and 30 and December 16, Marion has not scheduled a children’s COVID-19 clinic and has received no requests according to Desmarais.

            “People trust the pediatrician,” said Hoffer, a practicing physician. “The problem here is everyone is on the fence … especially with their kids.”

            Flu vaccines are being offered on Wednesday, November 17, at the Cushing Community Center. Desmarais said that, while there are only 10 high-dose vaccines remaining, the town has an ample amount of regular vaccine.

            In December, the town will conduct its first in a series of monthly blood-pressure clinics on Thursdays from 10:00 am to 11:00 am at Little Neck Village.

            The next meeting of the Marion Board of Health is scheduled for Tuesday, December 7, at 4:00 pm.

Marion Board of Health

By Mick Colageo

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