Meeting of the Public Health Council
PUBLIC HEALTH COUNCIL
Meeting of the Public Health Council, Tuesday, January 27, 1998, 10:00 a.m., Mass. Department of Public Health, 250 Washington Street, Boston, Massachusetts. Present were: Dr. Howard Koh, Chairman, Dr. Clifford Askinazi (arrived late at 10:55 a.m.), Dr. Peter Connolly, Mr. James Phelps, Mr. Sean Rush, Mr. Albert Sherman, Ms. Janet Slemenda, and Mr. Joseph Sneider. Mr. BertramYaffe absent. Also in attendance was Atty. Donna Levin, General Counsel.
**************************Excerpted of portion of meeting minutes
INFORMATIONAL BRIEFING ON PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO MINIMUM STANDARDS FOR BATHING BEACHES - 105 CMR 445.000 (STATE SANITARY CODE, CH. VII):
Mr. Howard Wensley, Director, Division of Community Sanitation, accompanied by Attorney Tracy Miller, Deputy General Counsel, Office of the General Counsel, presented the proposed bathing beaches regulations to the Council. Mr. Wensley said in part, "... Microbiological contamination of recreational waters is an important public health concern. Such contamination is generally associated with either human sewage or non-human waste. There are a number of pathways by which such contamination may occur. These include failures in human sewage treatment facilities, improperly treated sewage sludge, leachate from septic systems, direct discharge from boats and recreational vehicles, animal wastes, urban runoff from storm drains and combined sewer systems, as well as from swimmers. The actual pathogens that cause disease are very difficult to measure in marine waters. In addition, because of the variety of different pathogens that could be present in marine waters, measuring all possible pathogens is too difficult for routine testing programs. Public health officials typically estimate the potential for pathogens to be present by testing for a microorganism or group of microorganisms whose life cycle(s) mimics that of a specific pathogen. Although the monitoring of these indicator organisms does not allow a direct quantification of pathogenic organisms that cause health effects, it is an inexpensive, effective way of monitoring the overall well-being of recreational waters."
Mr. Wensley continued, "The existing regulations use the Total Coliform (TC) count as the indicator organism for determining the bacterial quality of the bathing beach water. The regulations state that if the TC level reaches 1000 colonies the local board of health should investigate further. Boards of health and the regulated community have requested more specific guidance relative to the closure of beaches for bathing purposes. The need for such a standard is also supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Natural Resources Defense Council."
In conclusion, Mr. Wensley stated, "After review of current literature, the recommendations of EPA, and discussions with affected agencies, staff proposes amendments to the regulations." Below is a summary of the proposed amendments:
- Indicator Organism Changing the indicator organism from Total Coliform to enterococci. The studies conducted by EPA of swimming related illnesses concluded that most of the swimming related illnesses are most likely caused by viruses rather than bacteria; and that enterococci is a constituent of both animal and human contamination and more readily emulates the survival rate of viruses in marine waters than the currently used coliform bacteria or other studied indicator organisms. EPA also determined that in fresh water both E. Coli and enterococci are appropriate indicators. For ease of administration, staff proposes to utilize the enterococci for both applications.
- Closure Standards Establishes specific standards for the closure of bathing beaches. The current regulations do not have a closure standard. They simply state that if the bacterial level reaches 1000 coliform colonies the board of health shall investigate and take appropriate action. The proposed closure standards are based on EPA's research which developed a quantifiable relationship between the density of an indicator organism in the water and the potential human risk involved in the recreational use of the bathing beach water.
- Sampling Parameters Setting specific parameters for sampling. Sampling will continue to be conducted in accordance with the protocol established by the American Public Health Association. It is proposed that sampling be conducted at each 300 feet of shoreline. This sampling protocol is consistent with the recommendations of EPA. Because staff understands that in some instances testing every 300 feet may be excessive, language which provides an option for boards of health to grant a variance was provided. The variance may only be granted upon review of a written sanitary survey and epidemiological evidence that a lesser degree of sampling is adequate.
- Sampling Frequency Changes the frequency of sampling from "it is recommended" to mandating that sampling shall occur at specified time intervals.
- Analytical Protocol Establishes a specific analytical protocol for the analysis of the water sample. This recently approved EPA protocol reduces the time frame for enterococci testing from 48 to 24 hours. This reduction in time makes the use of the enterococci organisms an appropriate indicator from the aspect of "turn-around time."
NO VOTE/INFORMATION ONLY