The recent detection of Escherichia coli bacteria in a private well-water test in Marion has the Board of Health pursuing the framework for a new regulation that would require regular testing in the 40 private wells designated by their owners for drinking water supply.
In her October 5 report to the board, Public Health Director/Nurse Lori Desmarais noted that the town has no testing requirements on private wells, and BOH member Dot Brown noted a recent singular exception that was made in conditioning an approval decision with annual testing because of a County Road well’s proximity to a former cranberry bog and the resultant probability of higher risk.
As it stands, only at the time of construction or upgrade is testing required. The state regulation dictates that if public water is available, a homeowner is required to connect to it. How to enforce that is another question entirely.
“Once they have the well, there’s nothing to prevent them from hooking it up to their house,” said Brown, who has a background in geology. “It would be a lot better if Marion required people to have wells tested.”
While the obvious concern is E. coli, Brown said such a test can look for a whole list of contaminants. “I can say it would be a good idea to write a regulation,” she said.
Board member Dr. John Howard said that a test that costs approximately $250 thoroughly looks for trace elements and pesticides, “roughly 39 to 40 different chemicals.” He said the test is “extremely detailed” and indicates safe levels and limits recommended for healthy use.
Brown thinks the right way to go is the more stringent test, less frequently but with regular testing in between for E. coli.
Administrative Assistant Maureen Murphy told the board that the town keeps an Excel spreadsheet that lists 200 wells in town categorizing them according to usages, be it agricultural and irrigation-related or primarily for water supply.
Dr. Ed Hoffer, the chairperson of the Board of Health, noted that the state has a boiler-plate regulation that town could use to build its own requirement. Howard suggested checking to see what neighboring towns may have in place, and Murphy reminded the board that Town Counsel Jon Witten has offered to help the board navigate through the matter.
In other matters, Marion has had 503 total COVID-19 cases, according to Desmarais, who reported five cases were active as of October 5. There were 39 cases in September and one since the beginning of October. Of the 39, 31 were eligible to be vaccinated, and 14 of those cases had been vaccinated.
Sippican Elementary School has three students or staff in the Test and Stay program, one person in quarantine, and five positive tests in isolation (there have been eight positives since the start of school).
At the junior high school, one person is in quarantine, and none at the high school (there have been five in quarantine at ORR since the start of the school year).
ORR is still conducting Test and Stay, but any exposures at home do not qualify for the Test and Stay program.
Tabor Academy has one case in isolation, and anyone in contact is also testing this week. Tabor conducts weekly testing on Thursdays for day students and faculty. This week, the prep school is conducting sample testing of 100 people of the campus population, including boarding students.
Desmarais also reported that 134 people attended a drive-thru flu vaccination clinic last week at the Cushing Community Center. On Thursday, October 7, a flu vaccination clinic will be held at Little Neck Village and at the Marion Town House for employees. In the future, Desmarais said, the town plans more clinics for Marconi Village, Marion Village Estates, and the Council on Aging.
Hoffer said he anticipates approval for a Moderna COVID-19 booster. Johnson & Johnson is also applying for such approval. Pfizer already has a booster shot approval.
Desmarais reported that there will be no further testing for mosquito-borne diseases this fall, but the state urges residents to take necessary measures, including the use of repellent, until the first hard frost.
A visit via Zoom from Jodi Stevens of the Marion Art Center led to a decision to host the MAC-sponsored Halloween Parade on Sunday, October 31, at 4:00 pm in pop-up tents outside the Music Hall rather than inside the historic building.
The event, canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, typically distributes 300 goody bags to children.
Health Agent Ana Wimmer is expected to return from maternity leave on Tuesday, October 12.
The next meeting of the Marion Board of Health is scheduled for Tuesday, October 19, at 4:00 pm.
Marion Board of Health
By Mick Colageo