Board of Health

Announcements

Department of Public Health press release on Eastern Equine Encephalitis in Orange

For information on the coronavirus go to the pandemic info page

For useful information on wells, septic systems, and building permit applications, scroll down


Information on the Pioneer Valley Mosquito Control District warrant article, passed at Annual Town Meeting, 6/27/20

Resources:

Department of Public Health fact sheets on West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis

PVMCD brochure

Massachusetts Mosquito Control Project Services.  This document, from the state Department of Agricultural Resources, is very informative about the various interventions used to control mosquito populations.

Slides of the presentation by Christopher Craig, the PVMCD coordinator

Environmental Protection Agency's page on the use of BTi for control of mosquito larvae

Here is an updated version of the material we sent out with the February Our Town Newsletter

Life-threatening diseases carried by mosquitoes – Eastern Equine Encephalitis, West Nile Virus, and others – are moving closer to our town every year and are considered a major threat to the public health.  To combat the spread of these illnesses, Annual Town Meeting voted to authorize funding to join the Pioneer Valley Mosquito Control District. 

This is not a spraying program.  Nor do we submit to procedures determined by an outside authority.  All decisions are ours to make and ours to implement.  But we don’t have to do it on our own.

What do we get for our money?

Surveillance.  Are mosquitoes in Shutesbury picking up viruses that can be transmitted to humans?  If they are, how can we get, and act on, the earliest possible warning?  To answer these questions, likely mosquito breeding grounds will be identified and traps set.  The catch from two or three of these traps will be lab tested each week for 12 weeks in the summer.  We will be able to assess the threat – a necessary precondition to being able to do something about it. 

Expertise.  The district’s philosophy is that of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which determines the most effective and environmentally responsible method for dealing with mosquitoes.  Whenever possible, mosquito habitat is disrupted, for example by replacing culverts to prevent the accumulation of stagnant water.  A next step up from that is to keep mosquito larvae from maturing, using Bti, because if these mosquito babies live to grow up, the only effective way to kill them is by insecticide spraying, either targeted or widespread.  This is what we want to avoid.  Last year when Eastern Equine Encephalitis broke out, Governor Baker reportedly came very close to ordering aerial spraying statewide; and a bill was recently passed authorizing aerial spraying by the state if the Department of Public Health declares an elevated risk of mosquito-borne disease.  Because we are members of a Mosquito Control District we now have the right to opt out of such spraying.

Assistance.  In the event of a public health emergency involving mosquito-borne disease, as members of a MCD we will be eligible for state aid, as well as support from other districts.

Joining the district dovetails with other preventive actions to be taken in Shutesbury.  At present the town is working toward becoming a “certified MVP community,” that is, participating in the state’s Municipal Vulnerability Planning program, planning for climate change resiliency.  Once we achieve this certification the town will be eligible for state aid to achieve its resiliency goals.  Some of this aid is specifically earmarked for the $5,000 annual Mosquito Control District fee, so within a few years this recurring expense could be reduced or reimbursed.


Tick alert, April, 2020

Ticks, which carry a number of diseases, are out in force this spring.  Take precautions when you are outside: use permethrin on your clothes and shoes (not on your skin).  One resident swears by high slick rubber boots.  For more information, click here.


West Nile Virus advisory, August, 2019

West Nile Virus, a potentially deadly disease carried by mosquitoes, is present in western Massachusetts.  There has been a confirmed case in Hadley, and mosquitoes carrying the virus have been identified in Deerfield.  Use common sense  to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes: avoid outdoor activities at dawn and dusk, keep covered, use an insect repellent containing DEET (or another EPA-registered active ingredient) when you're outside.  Use window and door screens and repair them if they're ripped.  Check the insulation around room air conditioners and any other openings.  Clean up any standing water in your yard: that's where they breed.  They especially like dirty water.  Think: birdbath, tarp on the woodpile, wheels on a wheelbarrow lying on its side, flowerpots.  Mosquito season is far from over.  For all the information see https://www.cdc.gov/westnile/index.html

 

 

Measles advisory, June, 2019

Measles, which is currently breaking out worldwide, can be quite dangerous and is highly contagious.  Only if 90-95% of a population is immune (by vaccination or by having had the disease) can the chain of transmission be broken.  Since Shutesbury Elementary School does not have this level of immunity among the pupils, Shutesbury is at risk of seeing measles break out here.

While people born before 1957 are generally presumed immune, immunity of all kinds can wane with age.  Seniors may wish to ask their doctors if a measles booster is indicated.

For information about measles please visit these sites:

MA DPH measles fact sheet

CDC measles page

 

Information on the well water at Town Hall, April, 2017

At a meeting on March 29, 2017, which was attended by two members of the Board of Selectmen, the Board of Health reviewed the results of water tests of samples taken from the the Town Hall kitchen and wellhouse as well as samples analyzed in 2006 and 1996.  The current samples show – surprise! – high sodium; though there is not a limit, the guideline maximum is 20 mg/L.  In addition, chloride, sediment, and total dissolved solids exceed DEP drinking water standards.  As a result of these exceedances, the faucets in the kitchen and the three restrooms in Town Hall have been posted.  A second bottled water source has been provided in the kitchen for easy access to drinking water on the lower level.

In practice, this changes very little.  The water was already known to be only marginally drinkable, and the town has been providing bottled water for drinking for many years now.  The kitchen, contrary to what some may think, has not been licensed by the Board of Health for the preparation of food from scratch for at least the last twenty-five years, so this does not change the status of the kitchen.  (The kitchen may be used by those working or meeting in Town Hall for refrigeration, reheating, and dishwashing.)  Posting the water in Town Hall merely formalizes what has been common knowledge for a long time.

That said, the results that we have seen do not suggest that the water is dangerous if drunk occasionally.  There is no bacterial contamination that would make a person sick, and no evidence of contamination from septic systems.  An extensive scan of volatile organic compounds indicates no cause for concern.

In the opinion of the Board of Health and our agents, the most likely source of the sodium, chloride, sediment, and dissolved solids in the water is road salt infiltrating the well through some deterioration or break in the well casing.  We have not seen high levels of these parameters in other wells in the area about which we have information, suggesting that the problem is in our well itself.

The big question is what to do next.  The three options are: do nothing and continue to rely on bottled water; attempt to rehabilitate the existing well; and drill a new well.  In our opinion, it is not appropriate for the Board of Health to decide among these options.  The costs, the benefits, and the risks of each course of action must be considered.  We are turning our problem over to a higher power.   For the moment, that higher power is the Board of Selectmen, who will consider this question at their meeting of April 4. 

 In this context, the question of further testing is on hold.  The tests that were envisioned were a first-draw lead test, to determine if there are problems with the plumbing, and a test for PCBs, which was to be done at the same time as PCB scans of water from the Fire Station and Highway Department (bundling them saves money).  If the Town makes the decision to try to repair the well, these tests will of course be necessary.

 

Click here for flyer describing the Housing Rehabilitation Loan Program

 

Useful information

Are you a septic system installer or pumper?  Click here for information

Please email the Board of Health for application forms.

 

Building permit applications

What you need to get Board of Health approval (coming soon).

Septic systems

How they work, how to get one, how to take care of it

Drinking water wells

Information about drinking water wells, the text of Shutesbury's well regulation, and a well permit application

Outdoor woodburning boilers

Full text of a regulation governing these heating devices, which was adopted in 2010.  

Tick-borne disease, including Lyme

Advice on avoiding tick-borne diseases.  This section is temporarily unavailable.

 

Minutes 

2017 
(below, if available)
 

2016 and earlier

News & Updates