The Board of Health voted 3-0 to approve new pesticide regulations for town-owned property at its June 12 meeting. The new regulation would limit the amount and types of chemical pesticides that can be used on town property including the sidewalk and tree lawn areas abutting private properties. The regulations do not apply to pesticide use on private property.
The new regulations come after more than a year of debate and investigation by the board. Most of the final discussion focused on how to deal with violations of the policy and how to publicize the information to the public. Board member Kevin Sexton questioned how the town would prove a violation had occurred if an accused party questioned a finding. Health Agent Kristen Grover replied that the only way to be certain that banned substances were being used is through testing. Grover then questioned who would have to pay for testing if needed. The board decided that after a first violation, a notice of the regulation would be sent to the offending party. Subsequent violations would result in fines the amount of which would defray the cost of testing. The amount of the fines are yet to be determined as it is unknown how much testing for prohibited substances may cost. Chair John Costigan noted that the town of Watertown, which has enacted similar regulations, has had no known violations to the policy. The Board of Health will present a plan to the Select Board for approval on Tuesday, June 19. It is hoped that the regulations would take effect in March 2019.
The board also listened to a request from resident David Zeek asking for the Board of Health to consider sending a letter to the governor asking for a study regarding the health risks for the public due to the use of natural gas and that the conclusions of the study be considered when natural gas infrastructure expansion is explored. Sixty-seven Boards of Health in the Commonwealth have already submitted similar letters. Zeek, a member of the Climate Advisory Committee, pointed out that he was speaking for himself at the meeting, and not for the committee. The Climate Advisory Committee has yet to discuss the issue. Select Board Liaison Dan Ensminger questioned whether or nor the request might be politically motivated. Zeek responded that he considers this to be an environmental issue, not a political issue. The board will discuss whether or not to move forward at its July 17 meeting.
Chair John Costigan reported that a new public health nurse had been hired and would be starting soon. He also reported on a warning from the Centers for Disease Control regarding salmonella found in some pre-packaged and pre-cut melons in the midwestern part of the country. There currently is no concern regarding the fruit n Massachusetts. Ensminger also thanked board member Heidi Pfeifer for her service. She is resigning from the board at the end of her term due to scheduling conflicts.
The Board of Health adjourned at 6:50 pm.