Making Democracy Work

Board of Health

Stephanie Miele, Observer Submitted June 2019

Mission Statement: "The mission of the Falmouth Board of Health is to protect and promote the health, safety, and well-being of the residents and visitors of the Town of Falmouth." The primary functions of the Board of Health to achieve our mission are to: prevent and control disease, enforce state and local regulations, promulgate local health regulations, identify and protect from environmental hazards, and advocate for a healthy community. The Board of Health meets on alternate Mondays at 6:30 in the Civil Defense Room at Town Hall. The meetings always begin with a reading of the mission statement and then an opportunity for anyone to make a statement or voice a concern. These statements cannot be discussed at that meeting but could be considered for an agenda item for a future meeting.

The members of the Board are: Chairperson Diana Molloy, Stephen Rafferty, George Heufelder, Kevin Kroeger, and Benjamin Van Mooy. Longtime member John Waterbury had to step down as his term expired. He was replaced by former longtime member George Heufelder. Also attending each meeting are health agent Scott McGann and assistant health agent Mallory Langler.

All meetings are audio recorded and minutes are taken by the secretary.

One of the regular items of business continues to be the granting of variances for septic upgrades. Installation of alternative technology systems is becoming more frequent and that leads to the problem of non-compliance where the required schedule of inspections is not maintained. The Health Department must follow up on this. Some people come before the Board requesting relief from the number of inspections required. These requests can be granted if the system runs in accordance with the Board's monitoring systems compliance requirements and has had 8 consecutive inspections with favorable results. The Board can allow a reduction to one inspection per year as long as the nitrogen reading is in compliance. If not, the number of inspections must revert to the number in the original contract. The Board has spent a great deal of time this year in refining and clarifying the language for compliance so that it will be consistent and fair to both year-round and vacation residences. It is also important to educate a homebuyer who purchases a home where an I/A system is already installed, as the new owner is responsible for maintaining the system. An open hearing was held on June 3rd so that the Board could address questions from the public. Interestingly, the only people in attendance and who had questions were inspectors and the questions mostly dealt with clarifications for inspecting traditional systems. On June 17 the revisions were presented and finalized.

Last year a great deal of time was spent discussing swimming pool safety after a drowning incident at a public pool. There were many open hearings with representatives from different pools around town. Guidelines were set but some questions remained. Scott McGann reported that the Sea Crest has a wristband system to prevent unauthorized access. However, bystanders found an unresponsive child in the pool. An adult, not the child's parent, was responsible for supervision of the child. The float line separating the deep and shallow ends of the pool was not attached at the time but, other than this, no safety violations occurred. However, the turnover rate, the amount of time it takes for the pumping and filtration systems to cycle all of the water in the pool at one time, was not meeting regulations. The Falmouth Health Department did an inspection the next day and the pool reopened. The Board of Health suggested adding a cautionary note on the web site about supervision of children. The Chamber of Commerce could do this as well. Representative Mary Doyle appeared with a variance request from Great Harbors. Great Harbors Association has concerns over the requirement for having adult supervision in addition to lifeguards at their pool. Mary Doyle who represented the association stated that the group feels that they have enough supervision under their current association rules that state that children who have been swim tested are allowed at the pool without an adult but in the presence of lifeguards. The association feels that there should be separate rules for lifeguard vs. non-life guarded pools. They want to allow 12-15 year old swim-tested children to be unaccompanied as was the association's previous procedure.

A discussion determined that Great Harbors has established a responsible safety program. People 12-16 years old who have passed a swim test may swim without adult supervision as there is a lifeguard on duty at all times the pool is open. Scott McGann testified that there is very good oversight at this pool and it is heavily regulated by the establishment.

The issue before the Board this year that garnered the most publicity was the proposed needle exchange. On July 30 Karen Riconda from the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod gave a presentation to the Board on free services that her group hoped to deliver to the Town of Falmouth including services for prevention and treatment of drug related illnesses, testing, syringe access and retrieval, overdose services, and prevention education. She presented statistics about the increase in HIV among drug users and overdose deaths. The group needed Board approval to obtain state funding. The Board was enthusiastic about this as it is supported in the mission statement and wrote a letter in support of the project. The question of a site was discussed and Ms. Riconda stated that the group would be working with the town to find a suitable site. Health agent Scott McGann met with Julian Suso, Frank Duffy, Rod Palmer, and Tom Bott and it was determined that any non-residential location should be acceptable. A site was selected in East Falmouth that apparently was not acceptable to the neighbors. This was the beginning of a great public outcry. A complaint was lodged against the Board and Scott McGann for breaking the open meeting law by not placing the address of the site on the agenda. On December 17, a large group of angry neighbors came to present its concerns during the open statement time at the beginning of the meeting as well as one EMT who spoke in favor. The Board was very precise in explaining why it could not enter into discussion or debate of non-agenda items but promised that concerns would be addressed. On January 12 a meeting was held at Falmouth High School for the purpose of listening to citizen concerns and taking questions. Excerpts from previously submitted letters were read. The board emphasized that it has no control over the site. The questions were read and discussed at the following Board of Health meeting. There was also a group of citizens present at this meeting with more questions and comments. Many people hoped that the Board would rescind the letter of support but this did not happen. Representative David Viera recommended suspending the letter in order to discuss a new location with the state. Eventually the Aids Support Group decided that the East Falmouth location would not be safe for their clients and decided to look for another location.

The health department is in the process of reviewing codes and fees for rental units and the necessity of having the personnel to do inspections to be certain that units are meeting the code requirements. June is a busy time in dealing with renters' complaints as many of them do not wish to leave their winter rentals. It takes 20-40 hours of labor for 1 housing complaint as these complaints require site visits, court appearances, and paperwork. In June there might be 3 calls for housing complaints in 1 day whereas in January there might be 3 calls in a month. Laura Kelley from Protect Our Cape Cod Aquifer (POCCA) requested that the Board write a letter asking for the Town of Falmouth to cease using Glyphosate (a.k.a. Round-up) and other chemicals on Town owned land. As there has been increasing evidence that Glyphosate can cause non-Hodgkins lymphoma, the Board decided to introduce a moratorium on the use of Glyphosate effective immediately and to remain in effect until March 31, 2020. The moratorium on Glyphosate may be lifted at an earlier date if the Board of Health concludes that the benefits of Glyphosate to the Town outweigh the risks. During the period of the moratorium, the Board of Health will conduct a broad examination of pesticide use by the Town to evaluate risks and explore adopting safer alternatives to those pesticides in current use. The Board of Health requests that interested stakeholders participate in a working group to ensure a broad representation of views. Variances from the moratorium for specific uses of Glyphosate will be considered on a case- by-case basis by the Board of Health; those requesting a variance may contact the Health Department and request to be placed on the agenda of any regularly-scheduled meeting of the Board of Health. The Board of Health then addressed whether and how to formulate a letter to the state regarding the EverSource plan to use 9 herbicides including Glyphosate on land in Falmouth. Having passed the moratorium, the Board of Health thought that it had a stronger position from which to recommend selective pruning instead of Glyphosate use to manage vegetation.

There have been three applications in Falmouth for a body art establishment since regulations were drafted based on input from state protocols. There are two areas for licensure: the physical facility and the practitioner. The Board is quite stringent on these requirements and one practitioner had to return to the Board several times to complete the requirements.

Food establishment inspection continues to be a priority. Food establishments will now have less time to correct problems. A violation must be corrected within 21 days. If a second inspection determines that the problem has not been corrected, closure policy will take place.

There was recently a sting operation regarding tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. Approximately 4 establishments were fined for selling to minors. The problem seems to be with the display of the products, making them too accessible.

The Board works well as a unit and continues to be concerned and courteous to the people who appear before it.

Last year the Board created a list of goals for discussion and action. They continue to work on these goals determining which goals have been achieved and which still need attention.