The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 21, 2003


Board of health still debating nature of animal regs

The Carlisle Board of Health expected another standing-room-only meeting to discuss proposed animal management regulations, but the crowd that assembled at Town Hall was smaller than usual, perhaps because of the snow storm. Although the board is now on its eighteenth draft of the proposed regulations, there is still little consensus between board members on what needs to be regulated and how detailed the bylaws need to be.

Composting manure

The board had invited Paul Sellow of Carlisle to share his expertise of compost and manure management. Sellow is an executive vice president of Synagro Inc., an agra-business which deals with large farms in solid bio-management (manure). Though he doesn't personally own a horse, or even a dog or cat, Sellow said that he has 22 years experience in agriculture and grew up on a family farm in Connecticut. He has read draft 17 of the BOH animal management document and has followed the debates in the Mosquito.

Sellow sees nutrient management and odor as the principal issue. He does not believe that pathogens are a problem. Sellow feels that Carlisle doesn't have the volume of animals to pose any significant manure problems. One farm that he controls in California has a one-acre lagoon filled with liquid cow manure. With proper liming this property is controlled without any public health issues.

Horse manure is much dryer and has a higher carbon content than cow manure. It contains mostly nitrogen and phosphorous which are nutrients that can be added back to the soil. One horse, Sellow estimates, can produce 100 pounds of nitrogen which would be mineralized over three years. An acre of grass could use 200 pounds in one year.

Composting is a great method of processing manure. It takes a volume of five to ten cubic yards to effectively compost. During this process some nitrogen is used and 80% of the volume is lost. Composting small piles is inefficient because too many truck loads are required to haul it away. Horse manure, with bedding of either shavings or hay, will compost fine. Sellow says that he vacuums all his leaves every fall and composts them.

Audience comments

Tricia Smith felt that the animal management document was trying to micro-manage animal owners and would encounter numerous enforcement problems.

John Lee quipped that horses ought to be encouraged as they cost the town less than children.

Jackie Hamilton said that it was not just the setbacks but the board should look at what has worked for the town. Everybody has a different situation. Hamilton, a former animal officer, felt that there were very few problems in the 25 years she had lived in Carlisle.

Sally Lakness, who inspects horses and barns without pay, explained her method of operation. Lakness often conducts inspections without first notifying the owner. She sometimes does this by driving by and if she sees a neat barn with a few horses outside, that's fine. Lakness would find her job much more difficult if she had to measure setbacks and carry property plans. Though she has latex gloves and disposable boots, she makes a point of never touching the animals as some horse infections can be very contagious.

Current thoughts

· Lisa Davis Lewis: "The state wishes the BOH to license, and license means regulations. We are not necessarily wed to those regulations, but need them as guidelines. There are three areas:

1. Manure management. Maybe we need a specific document for manure management.

2. Inspections. We are now doing inspections for free by Sally Lakness, but we may need a more professional approach where that person works within a set of BOH guidelines.

3. Setbacks. There is no consensus here as to what is needed. Part of the setback rules is for public health reasons and part is for the nuisance."

· Martha Bedrosian: "There is no hidden issue. I have a personal concern that I want [manure] to be away from wells which is why we are on draft 18." She is worried about some dangerous pathogens that may be present in manure piles.

· Steve Opolski: "Many people have commented privately or in the Mosquito letters. Former board of health member Jim Slattery used to comment that, in his experience in working for the state, the worst regulations were created in anticipation of a problem. That's been my decision making for six years. If it's not broken, don't fix it.

"If the state had not required the town to license animals when it became more than 5,000 in population would we be here? Not likely. Do we have a problem? Any hint that there is a problem?"

No conclusions

The board of health had received four documents from residents Melissa Webster, Tricia Smith and Wayne Davis which deal with animal care, manure management and dispute resolution. While the board took questions from the audience, no action taken on any of the documents. Davis Lewis explained that she wanted more time to study the documents and that the board should consider a step backwards from the regulations draft 18.

2003 The Carlisle Mosquito