Visiting Engineer Shares Optimism

            Bob Silva of Septic Preservation Services visited the Marion Board of Health on January 19 to talk about denitrification technology in septic systems. He told the board that his company services all “advanced-treatment” units and is a distributor of Singulair advanced-treatment units.

            Acknowledging the unmatched expertise of George Heufelder, Silva asked why the board wanted to hear from him.

            Board member Dr. Ed Hoffer said it was due diligence on the town’s part to hear from different experts in the field, as one of many towns looking to advocate for homeowners.

            Silva said that 25 years ago, Hawaii passed the same essential law that MassDEP is trying to pass. Using that state’s failed experiment, Silva said the law has no power without the logistical underpinnings necessary to create compliance. It took a new training program over a number of years for Hawaii to, even in part, begin to make compliance attainable.

            “There are a whole range of problems that we have to overcome for that initiative to be successful,” he said of Massachusetts. “I hope that as we work through that whole comment section of the law and how they’re going to implement it … from a cost perspective, I don’t think it’s going to be as bad as a lot of citizens think that it’s going to be.”

            For example, Silva said it remains unclear if replacement of entire systems will be required.

            “I think, at the end of the day, what’s going to make sense is that they’re going to say, ‘No, you don’t have to replace the whole thing. Let’s go in and take the tank out, and let’s put the treatment tank in.’ So, yes, there is a cost, but hopefully they realize the whole system does not have to be replaced,” said Silva. “They’re still working through all of this.”

            In discussing septic technology, Silva compared bacteria to elves. “They love sugar,” he said, going on to explain that new systems require biological augmentation to feed the billions of spores that enter from the surrounding air.

            “Operationally, what’s happening is the need to operate onsite systems is increasing faster than the industry can provide qualified operators. It’s a problem,” said Silva, who said the competing systems “are all the same. … We’re competitors, but the bottom line is the onsite industry in Massachusetts is a $2,000,000,000-a-year industry. There’s more work than all of us can handle, so we don’t need to be jerks to each other. … Biologically, this process really has not changed in 2,000 years.”

            Attending remotely, Maggie Fieldsteel of Marion referenced her own professional experience in septic technology and suggested the town make sure the new systems are properly tracked and maintained.

            The board members thanked Silva for sharing his experience.

            Asked by Finance Director/Interim Town Administrator Judy Mooney and Finance Committee Chairman Shay Assad, Health Director/Nurse Lori Desmarais told the board that she revised the department’s FY24 budget to be level funded in all areas except wages.

            Desmarais said she shifted some money from supplies to inspections and licensing. As of January 19, she was waiting on a budget figure from Rochester Health Director Karen Walega, the former Marion employee when the town and Rochester shared a joint district.

            Walega’s pension increased to $33,993, along with $1,000 for bookkeeping service, and Marion also sent $4,128 for Walega’s benefits, according to Desmarais. The budget line item increased roughly $5,000 to $19,561.

            Hoffer noted that the district still has over $10,000 in a Santander Bank account. Desmarais agreed to revisit the matter with Mooney and potential discuss the matter with Rochester.

            The state Department of Environmental Protection Bureau of Waste Site Cleanup was addressed. Hoffer said that Hiller Oil had spilled some oil at 604 Point Road and agreed to clean it up.

            In her report to the board, Desmarais said the town distributed 900 vaccines in 2022, including 582 flu shots and over 300 COVID-19 vaccinations.

            The next meeting of the Marion Board of Health was not scheduled upon adjournment.

Marion Board of Health

By Mick Colageo

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