The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 18, 2005


It starts with hay . . . Animal owners praise new manure regs

It took more than three years and some hot confrontations between the Board of Health (BOH) and animal owners to revise Carlisle's manure management regulations, but now it all smells like roses.

"The board has done a really great job," said horse owner Melissa Webster. "They really explored the issue. The regulations are so clear, so readable, so reasonable. They give good guidance to people with animals so they understand how to approach [the issues]."

Earlier BOH regulations, adopted in 1987, simply pertained to the stockpiling of manure — 100 feet from any wetland, 40 feet from the lot line. In 2002, when Carlisle's human population passed 5,000, state law required the BOH to license and regulate barns and stables. Initially the BOH explored comprehensive regulations that would have required owners of animals (other than pets kept in the home) to file a complex written manure management plan and pay stiff fees for licensing and inspections. Occasionally the crowd at BOH meetings would swell to 80 and become confrontational, as the animal lobby feared the regs would make 60% of their properties non-conforming.

After eighteen drafts and numerous meetings, the two sides decided to keep it simple. What Carlisle needed, they agreed, were new manure management regulations that provided education and guidance, rather than rigid rules.

New regulations guide and educate

The new regulations, approved last month, provide "Performance Standards" for waste containment and disposal, "noisome impact control," and compliance, in order to protect the quality of surface and ground water, prevent disease transmission, and protect the neighbors.

"Noisome impact" is defined as "malodorous and excessively persistent odors or excessive numbers of flies."

Animal wastes may be placed in a manure pile, composted, or spread in a pasture. Manure piles should be no closer than 100 feet to a well, 100 feet to a wetland, and 40 feet from a lot line. However, the document recognizes that individual locations and practices may offer some protection and provides for variances from these setbacks.

A copy of the regulations is available on the Carlisle town Web site,, and at the BOH office in Town Hall.

Owners of large animals in Carlisle, mainly horses, approach manure management in different ways. Webster, who is a gardener and keeps two horses on her four-acre lot, composts the manure, and shares it with other gardeners. Deb Toher, who frequently has "several" horses on her Curve Street property, has her manure pile carted away every two weeks.

The regulations are really, really fair," says Toher. As for the arduous process of arriving at new regs, "Everyone got a good understanding of the other side," she says.

Adds Webster, "The whole process spoke to town values."

2005 The Carlisle Mosquito