The Board of Health meets on the first and third Thursdays of the month at 7 p.m. in the Land Use Boards workroom, 2nd floor of Town Hall.
We are pleased to welcome Kathleen Carlson who replaced Lisa Anderson who and was with us for about 5 years. She had previously worked for building inspector from 1994 to 2003 before moving down to the treasurer/collectors office. Kathleen brings a wealth of experience to this important position as administrative assistant to both the Board and the building inspector.
Sherry Petrucci, RN our part time public health nurse resigned this past year. Sherry worked with us for 3 years and will be missed.
The Board appointed Kate Johnson, a Southwick resident, to fill this position. Mrs. Johnson has been a Registered Nurse for over 20 years and works as the Nurse Leader in the Westfield Public Schools. She has previously worked as staff nurse and clinical educator at Baystate Medical Center for 10 years. She also worked as a Clinical Information Specialist for a national software company and earned a BSN from Keuka College, a MBA from Western New England College and a MSN from American International College. She is a welcome addition to our staff with her wide range of experience plus her expertise in the public school nursing setting.
Percolation tests for new construction decreased 26.5% from 34 tests in 2007 to 25 tests in 2008. Repair percolation tests also decreased 62.2% from 37 tests in 2007 to 14 tests. New septic system disposal permits decreased 11.5% from 26 permits in 2007 to 23. Repair septic system disposal permits decreased 67.35% from 49 permits in 2007 to 16.
Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day
Southwick’s annual household hazardous waste collection day was held this year on May 24th, 2008 behind Town Hall. Each year this collection has greater participation. The collection provides an environmentally safe outlet for household chemicals that might otherwise improperly end up in Southwick’s water or land.
West Nile Virus (WNV)
West Nile Virus was not a significant health threat again this year. Our office was an area repository for bird specimens but fortunately, none were collected either from the Town of Southwick or the surrounding towns. No human or equine cases of WNV were reported in Massachusetts.
Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE)
There was only one human case of EEE and one equine case reported in 2008.
The latest data reported here are from 2007. The news is sobering in that 3,376 confirmed cases of Lyme disease were reported which is a 35.4% increase from 2006. Nearly all counties reported increased incidence rates. The majority of cases had onsets in June, July, and August. The average age for a confirmed case was 38 years. The highest reported incidence rates were among children aged 5-9 and adults aged 55-64. 33% of confirmed cases did not report an EM rash.
Public Health Emergency Preparedness Planning.
Medical Reserve Corps (MRC)
The MRC program, part of Citizen Corps, was proposed by President George W. Bush during his 2002 State of the Union Address in response to the overwhelming number of medical professionals and others who sought to volunteer their services following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Notwithstanding their desire to help, many volunteers were unable to do so because they had not been identified, credentialed, or trained in advance. With a Medical Reserve Corps program in place, local emergency response agencies have access to an organized group of available community volunteers for emergencies or as other community needs develop.
MRC volunteers include medical and public health professionals such as physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, veterinarians, mental health specialist, and epidemiologists as well as clerks, truck drivers and Clergy. Retired or part-time medical professionals with or without a current licenses are especially valuable. For each medical professional, our MRC needs at least five supporting team members, who can direct traffic, drive trucks, act as interpreters, and register people. There is a place in the Greater Westfield - Western Hampden County (GW-WHC) MRC for all interested volunteers, including those who are already active in Citizen Emergency Response Teams (CERT). You need not be a U.S. citizen to volunteer.
The Southwick Board of Health and the Local Boards of Health in the Greater Westfield Area have been working on Public Health Comprehensive Emergency Management Plans (PH-CEMP) that include Infectious Disease Emergencies, Emergency Dispensing Sites (EDS), and Pandemic Flu Planning.
Additionally, local hospitals have been drafting plans for Influenza Specialty Care Units (ISCU). MRC volunteers play key roles in these plans and others. Without an extensive group of pre-credentialed, pre-trained volunteers, local towns and hospitals have no practical way of providing medical surge and outreach during large scale public health emergencies. Massachusetts MRC volunteers played important roles in the Katrina evacuation and in the regional flash flooding in 2007 in northeastern Mass. MRC volunteers also assist the Board of Health with initiatives such as identifying special populations and promoting healthy habits.
Flu pandemic planning remains a high priority. The Board‘s agent is working closely with the Hampden County Health Coalition and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. In an event requiring mass prophylaxis, the Board is working to insure that cooperation between local, state, and federal agencies will provide a coordinated response.
Youth Access To Tobacco
The Gandara Center, based in West Springfield is the recipient of a three year grant from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Tobacco Control Program.~ The grant provides for two operational elements: merchant education and compliance checks designed to ensure that tobacco products are not sold to anyone under the age of 18.~ In 2008 one round of compliance checks and two rounds of merchant education were conducted. There were no illegal sales during this years round of compliance checks.
Compliance checks and merchant education will continue in 2009~with the cooperation of the~Gandara Center and~Southwick's Board of Health.
Public Health Nursing Report:
The Southwick Board of Health continues to provide free immunizations through the Massachusetts Immunization Program utilizing state and federal funding.
Kate Johnson RN, is responsible for investigation and follow-up of reportable communicable diseases and assists the Board with food borne illness investigations. There were case surveillance and reporting for 11 communicable diseases in 2008. In August, Kate attended the MAVEN training which is a state-wide database for case reporting between boards of health and the Mass Dept of Public Health. Kate has been involved with the ongoing coordination between the Western Hampden County Medical Reserve Corps and the town of Southwick as well as attending a board of health orientation in November.
South Pond Beach
The South Pond beach operated during the swimming season (July-August). There were no beach closures.
Outdoor wood furnaces
MassDEP’s final rule governing outdoor hydronic heaters (“OHHs”, also known as “outdoor wood-fired boilers”) took effect on December 26, 2008. Starting on that date, only OHHs that meet a strict standard for particulate emissions may be sold for installation in Massachusetts. The full regulation and a fact sheet summarizing its requirements are available on MassDEP’s web site: http://www.mass.gov/dep/air/laws/regulati.htm.
The emission standard is the “Phase II” standard used by the US Environmental Protection Agency’s voluntary OHH program: 0.32 lbs of particulate matter/MMBtu output, with emissions in any test run no higher than 18 grams/hour for residential-sized units or 20 grams/hour for commercial-sized units. Models that have been determined by EPA’s OHH program to meet this standard may continue to be sold for installation in Massachusetts (see the list of models at
The regulation also establishes requirements to minimize the effect of OHHs on neighbors, including setbacks from property boundaries for newly installed units, minimum heights for smoke stacks, limits on burning outside the heating season for units close to neighboring houses, and a prohibition on burning anything except clean seasoned wood.
Where MassDEP’s regulation is more stringent than rules that have already been adopted by municipalities, the state rule must be complied with. Local rules that are more stringent than MassDEP’s may still be enforced. MassDEP’s regulation authorizes local boards of health, police departments, and fire departments to enforce specific provisions of the state rule, notably those governing OHH operations (e.g., burning appropriate fuel), visibility, and setback requirements.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is now responsible for the licensing, inspection and enforcement of message therapies having taken over from local health departments in 2008. As a result this will be the last year the town will receive licensing revenue from practitioners and/or message establishments. A Massage Therapist is a person, who instructs or administers massage or massage therapy for compensation. The Board of Registration of Massage Therapy both proposes and reviews legislation, as well as new rules and regulations, affecting the profession. It maintains high standards in the field and protects consumers by investigating and resolving against practitioners. It also works to maintain the educational standards of the profession by directing curricula, licensing schools, and establishing continuing education requirements.
Mr. FitzGerald regularly participates in a variety of seminars, committees, and training programs. He attended the annual Massachusetts Health Officers Association in November in Springfield. The MHOA/DEP seminar in Hadley in March. He is secretary and executive board member of the Western Mass Public Health Association (WMPHA) and vice chairman of the Southwick Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC). He serves on the Executive Board of the Hampden County Health Coalition and newly appointed to the Massachusetts Food Establishment Advisory Committee (FEAC). The WMPHA provides educational and informational programs in the fields of public health practice and sanitary engineering training for onsite septic system evaluation and siting.
Jerry Azia, D.D.S., Chairman
Thomas J. FitzGerald, RS, MS, Agent
Kate Johnson, RN, Public Health Nurse
Kathleen Carlson, Clerk
Jean Nilsson, Meeting Secretary