GENERAL LAWS OF MASSACHUSETTS – Chapter 111 –
Selected Sections Pertaining to Local Boards of Health
for the complete code, see The Massachusetts General Laws
Chapter 111: Section 26. Boards of health in cities; membership; appointment; removal; compensation.
In each city, except as hereinafter provided, the board of health shall consist of three persons, one of whom shall be a physician. No one of them shall be a member of the city council. One member shall be appointed in January of each year for three years from the first Monday of the following February. Unless otherwise provided in the city charter, the members shall be appointed by the mayor, subject to confirmation by the board of aldermen, and may be removed by the mayor for cause, and vacancies shall be filled by appointment for the residue of the unexpired term. Members of the board shall receive such compensation as the city council may determine. Boards of health in towns shall be chosen as provided in chapter forty-one. This section shall not apply to any city in which a different type of organization is authorized by special legislative act or by the acceptance of sections twenty-six A to twenty-six E, inclusive.
Chapter 111: Section 26A. Health departments in cities; commissioners.
A city, by accepting the provisions of this section and sections twenty-six B to twenty-six E, inclusive, by vote of the city council and approval of the mayor, and a town, by accepting the provisions of said sections by vote of the town, may create a health department to replace the board of health therein. Such health department shall consist of a commissioner of health who shall perform and exercise the duties and powers of a board of health, with the advice of an advisory council of health.
Chapter 111: Section 26B. Commissioner of health in cities; appointment; removal; qualifications.
In a city the mayor, with the approval of the city council, unless otherwise provided in the city charter, and in a town the board of selectmen, if authorized by a vote of the town, shall appoint, and may remove for cause, a commissioner of health who shall be a citizen of the United States who has been graduated from a medical school approved by the state authority for the approval of medical schools, and either shall be the holder of a degree of public health with at least two years’ full-time experience in a responsible position in public health service, or shall have had four years’ full-time experience in a responsible position in such service. He shall be eligible to be registered to practice medicine under the laws of the commonwealth. Said commissioner shall devote his entire time to the performance of his duties and the supervision of the employees of the department. He shall be appointed in January for a period of five years beginning the first Monday of the following February, and until the qualification of his successor. Any vacancy in office shall be filled for the balance of the unexpired term in the same manner as the original appointment. His salary shall be such as the city council or selectmen may determine.
Chapter 111: Section 26C. Advisory council of health in cities; members; qualifications; appointment; terms; removal; compensation; meetings; function.
The advisory council of health shall consist of nine persons, two of whom shall be registered physicians and five of whom shall be nonprofessionals. For the purposes of this section “nonprofessionals” shall mean a person whose background and experience indicate that he is qualified to act in the broad public interest. Such person, his spouse, parents, siblings or children shall not be employed by a health care facility, by a nonprofit service corporation established in accordance with chapters one hundred seventy-six A to one hundred seventy-six E, inclusive, nor by a corporation authorized to insure the health of individuals. Such person or his spouse shall not be licensed to practice medicine. No member of said council shall be a member of the city council. The members of said council first appointed hereunder shall be appointed as follows:– three members to serve for one year, three members to serve for two years, and three members to serve for three years, from the first Monday of the following February, and until the qualification of their respective successors, and thereafter three members shall be appointed in January of each year for three years from the first Monday of the following February, and until the qualification of their respective successors. In a city, unless a different mode of appointment or election is provided in the city charter, the members shall be appointed by the mayor, subject to confirmation by the city council, and in a town the members shall be appointed by the board of selectmen. Members may be removed in the same manner, for cause, and vacancies shall be filled in the same manner, by appointment for the remainder of the unexpired term. Members of the advisory council of health shall be compensated at ten dollars a day while on duty plus expenses incurred in line of duty. Said council shall meet quarterly and additional meetings may be held at any time at the call of the commissioner of health who shall act as chairman of said council. The advisory council of health shall advise and assist the commissioner of health.
Chapter 111: Section 26D. Abolition of boards of health in cities and towns upon qualification of commissioner.
Upon the qualification of the commissioner of health first appointed under section twenty-six B, the terms of the then existing members of the board of health of the city or town shall terminate and said offices shall thereupon be abolished.
Chapter 111: Section 26E. Rules and regulations for departments of health; assistants and clerks.
Every such commissioner of health shall make rules and regulations for the department of health, its officers, agents and assistants. He may appoint such necessary assistants and clerks as may be required to execute the health laws and regulations of the department. They shall devote their entire time to the performance of their duties unless specifically employed on a part-time basis.
Chapter 111: Section 26F. List of hazardous chemicals in water supply; effects.
In any city or town which accepts the provisions of this section, the board of health of such city or town shall annually publish a list, a copy of which shall be posted in the town or city hall and at the offices of the water department of hazardous chemicals which are present in the municipal water supply in concentrations greater than fifty per cent of the suggested action guidelines, the suggested no adverse response levels or the maximum contaminant levels established by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Such list shall also include a brief and clear description of the effects of said chemicals upon the human body.
Chapter 111: Section 26G. Septic system installers; inspections.
In any city, town or district which accepts the provisions of this section notwithstanding the provisions of section seventeen of chapter two hundred and sixty-eight A, a septic system installer who is appointed or elected to the board of health may engage or work at the business of septic system installation within the area over which the board of health has jurisdiction while serving as a board member; provided, however, that neither the board of health member nor the board shall inspect a septic system installation done by said board of health member, or said member’s partner, employer, employee or co-employee. The inspection of work so done shall be performed either by the board of health of another city, town or district or by a special assistant health agent who is appointed solely for the purpose of performing such inspections by the mayor of a city, the board of selectmen of a town or the governing board of a district. If the board of selectmen also serves as the board of health, said septic system installer shall not participate in the appointment of special assistant health agent. This section shall take effect upon its acceptance in a city, by the vote of the city council, subject to the provisions of the charter of such city; in a town, by a vote of town meeting; in a municipality having a town council form of government, by a vote of the town council, subject to the provisions of the charter of such municipality; and, in a district, by the vote as above provided of the cities and towns of the districts. (Added by 1988, 121.)
Chapter 111: Section 27. Organization of boards; appointment of physician and clerk; compensation.
Every such board shall organize annually by the choice of one of its number as chairman. It may make rules and regulations for its own government and for the government of its officers, agents and assistants. It may appoint a physician to the board, who shall hold his office during its pleasure, may choose a clerk, who in a city shall not be a member of the board, and may employ the necessary officers, agents and assistants to execute the health laws and its regulations. It may fix the salary or other compensation of such physician and its clerk and other agents and assistants.
Chapter 111: Section 27A. Appointment of health officer by two or more towns; duties; compensation; joint committee.
Two or more towns may, by vote of each, form a district for the purpose of employing therein a health officer and necessary assistants and clerks, all of whom shall be appointed and may be removed by a joint committee composed of the boards of health of said towns. Persons so employed shall perform such duties and receive such compensation as said joint committee shall determine and, in so far as their duties in a given town are concerned, shall be the employees of and responsible to the regularly constituted board of health of said town. Said joint committee shall annually elect a chairman and a secretary and shall determine the relative amount of service to be performed in each town of the district by persons employed hereunder. The treasurer of one of the towns of the district designated by the joint committee shall be treasurer of the district and shall give to the district a bond with a surety company authorized to transact business in the commonwealth as surety, for the faithful performance of his duties as treasurer of the district, in such sum and upon such conditions as the joint committee may require. Said joint committee, annually in the month of December, shall estimate the amount of money required to pay the costs and expenses of the district for the following year, shall fix and determine the proportion of such costs and expenses to be paid by the respective towns thereof during such year and shall certify the amount so determined for each such town to the assessors thereof who shall include the same in the tax levy of such year. Upon order of the board of health of each such town, the town treasurer thereof shall, from time to time, subject to the provisions of section fifty-two of chapter forty-one, pay to the district treasurer such sums not exceeding the amount certified by the joint committee as the town’s share of the costs and expenses of the district. The district treasurer shall disburse the money so received, upon warrants approved by the health officer. A member town of a regional health district formed pursuant to this section may withdraw by majority vote taken at the annual town meeting of such member town, and said vote to withdraw shall become effective on the last day of the next fiscal year. This section shall not apply in the county of Barnstable nor shall it authorize any city to join in forming such a district. Chapter 111: Section 27B. Regional health districts; regional board of health; powers and duties; administration; organization; management; accounts; rules and regulations. Section 27B. Two or more municipalities may, in a city having a Plan E charter by the affirmative vote of a majority of all members of the city council, in other cities by vote of the city council and approval of the mayor, and by vote of a town at a regular annual town meeting, form a regional health district which shall consist of a regional board of health, a director of health and his staff. The regional health district shall have all the powers and shall perform all the duties conferred upon, or exercised by, the boards of health and health departments of the constituent municipalities under any law or ordinance pertaining thereto, except in so far as the regional health district may by majority vote delegate certain powers and duties to the constituent municipalities. The regional health district, hereinafter referred to as the district, shall be administered by a full-time director of health, who shall be either (a) a physician, graduated from an approved school of medicine and registered or eligible for registration to practice medicine in the commonwealth, with one year of full-time graduate public health academic training or two years of full-time experience, and not engaged in private practice while serving as director of health; or (b) a lay person with professional academic training equivalent to a bachelor’s degree and with five years of satisfactory full-time experience in generalized public health programs, or a lay person with ten years of full-time satisfactory administrative experience and supervision of generalized public health programs. When a lay health officer is employed, there shall be employed a registered physician to perform such medical functions as are required. The regional board of health, hereinafter referred to as the board, shall be comprised of at least one representative from each constituent municipality. Each constituent municipality having a population greater than ten thousand shall have one additional representative to the board for every population unit of ten thousand or major fraction thereof beyond the first ten thousand. In no instance shall there be more than five representatives from a single municipality on a board. Towns shall at a town meeting select, or change the method of selecting, their representative or representatives by any of the following methods:– (a) by appointment of the board of health, (b) by appointment of the selectmen, (c) by vote at the annual town meeting, or (d) by any other method decided at the annual town meeting. In cities such representatives shall be appointed by the mayor with the approval of the city council, or in cities having Plan E charters by the city manager, unless a definite mode of appointment is otherwise provided by the city charter. When the district includes one or more entire counties, the county commissioners of each entire county shall appoint an additional representative to the board. Each representative shall serve for a period of three years, excepting that at its initial organization the board shall decide the term of years for the first representatives who shall be elected or appointed to the board, so that thereafter approximately one third of the representatives will be elected or appointed each year. Said representatives shall serve without compensation, but shall receive their necessary traveling expenses from the board while in the performance of their official duties. Representatives to the board may be re-elected or reappointed for a maximum of two terms. The board shall meet annually and at such other times as it shall determine by its rules or when requested by the chairman of the board or the director of health. Any constituent municipality may, by vote passed prior to July first in any year, withdraw from the district, such withdrawal becoming effective January first following; provided, that the municipality shall have been a member of the district for at least five years. The board shall select a treasurer, who may be the treasurer of one of the constituent municipalities, to act as treasurer for the district. For the faithful performance of his duties, said treasurer shall give bond, with a surety company authorized to transact business in the commonwealth, in such sums and upon such conditions as the board may require. Said board, annually in the month of December, shall (a) estimate the amount of money required to pay the cost and expense of the district for the following year, (b) fix and determine by a majority vote the proportion of such costs and expenses to be paid by the individual municipalities thereof during such year, and (c) certify the amount so determined for each municipality to the assessors thereof, who shall include same in the tax levies of each year, and each municipality shall appropriate such sum for the district. In apportioning the costs, the board by a majority vote may use any of the following formulae as a basis for their apportionment:– (a) valuation according to the latest state valuation, establishing the basis of apportionment of state and county taxes, (b) population as determined by the most recent estimate by the secretary of the commonwealth, exclusive of universities and federal, state and county institutions, (c) a combined formula of valuation according to the latest state valuation and population as determined by the most recent estimate by the secretary of the commonwealth, exclusive of universities and federal, state and county institutions, or (d) any other method decided by majority vote of the board. Upon order of the board, the treasurer of each constituent municipality thereof shall from time to time, subject to the provisions of section fifty-two of chapter forty-one, pay to the treasurer of the district the amount certified by the board as the municipality’s share of the cost and expenses of the district. The treasurer of the district shall disburse the money so received upon warrant approved by the director of health and signed by the chairman or vice-chairman of the board. The accounts of each district shall be audited annually by the bureau of accounts of the department of corporations and taxation, under the provisions of sections thirty-five, forty and forty-one of chapter forty-four. The board shall appoint, and may reappoint, for a term of five years, a director of health, hereinafter referred to as the director, as provided in this section. The board may remove the director for cause after proper notice and a public hearing. The director shall serve as secretary of the board, but shall have no vote. He shall be the executive and administrative head of the district, and may, with the approval of the board, designate one or more deputies and may appoint and employ, with like approval, such assistants as may be provided for in the budget. The director shall prepare and present annually to the board a report and a budget for its approval, together with such recommendations as he may deem proper. The board shall make and promulgate reasonable rules and regulations, for which notice and public hearing shall be given in the same manner and extent as required by the provisions of section thirty-seven of chapter thirty and section two of chapter thirty A. The board shall also (a) take evidence in appeals, (b) consider plans and appointments required by law, (c) hold hearings, and (d) discharge other duties required by law; but it shall have no administrative or executive functions. The board may delegate the holding of hearings to the director or his deputies. The board may elect an executive committee consisting of its chairman, vice-chairman, secretary and such other members as its rules may determine. Said executive committee shall have the authority to act for the board when the board is not in session. All full-time incumbents of any office or position brought under the district at the time of its formation shall be transferred thereto without loss of civil service, retirement or other rights. All positions and offices of the district, including the director, but excluding representatives to the board, shall be subject to the provisions of chapter thirty-two, and all such included offices and positions shall be placed in the county retirement system of the county which has the majority of the population of the area served by the district at the time of its organization. Ninety days after the organizational meeting of the board, all district positions and offices, except the director and the representatives to the board, not under the provisions of chapter thirty-one at the time of the formation of the regional board of health, shall be placed within the civil service in the manner provided by chapter thirty-one and the rules and regulations promulgated thereunder, and all positions and offices subsequently established by the board shall be subject to the provisions of said chapter thirty-one and the rules and regulations thereof, unless the board by a majority vote within ninety days after its organizational meeting votes not to extend the provisions of said chapter to any or all of such eligible positions and offices. At any time after such a vote to exclude, however, the board by a majority vote may bring within the provisions of chapter thirty-one, in the manner set forth therein, any or all positions and offices, except the director and the representatives to the board, which were excluded but which are still subject to the jurisdiction of the board. The wages and salaries of all offices and positions, including those subject to chapter thirty-one, shall be determined by the board.
Chapter 111: Section 27C. Regional health districts; reimbursement; qualification; statement.
Each regional health district established under the provisions of section twenty-seven B shall be entitled to reimbursement from the commonwealth, to an amount not exceeding in the aggregate fifty cents per inhabitant of the constituent cities and towns, as determined by the last federal census, for expenditures incurred by it for initial capital outlays, including in such term the acquisition, construction, improvement or renovation of any buildings or premises for the use of the district and any original furnishings and equipment therefor, but excluding the costs of supplies, salaries and other expenses for the ordinary maintenance and operation of such district. In order to qualify for such reimbursement a regional board of health shall, before incurring any expenses reimbursable under this section, submit to the commissioner of public health an itemized statement of all proposed expenditures for such purposes. The commissioner shall examine such statement and shall notify said board to what extent, in his opinion, the proposed expenditures are reasonably necessary for the purposes of the regional health district and reimbursable hereunder, and the probable amount of reimbursement therefor. Within three months after the date of final payment for such capital outlays the said board shall submit to the commissioner a certified statement of its actual expenditures for such purposes. The commissioner shall, if he is satisfied that the expenditures so certified are reimbursable and not unreasonable or excessive, certify to the comptroller and the treasurer shall forthwith pay to such regional health district, from any amounts appropriated therefor, the amount of such approved reimbursement.
Chapter 111: Section 28. Annual reports.
In each city such board shall annually in January make a full and comprehensive report to the city council of its acts during the preceding year and of the sanitary condition of the city. It shall also, if the city council or the standing committee on finance thereof so requires, send to the city auditor a detailed estimate of the appropriation required by its department for the next financial year.
Chapter 111: Section 29. Weekly reports of deaths from diseases dangerous to public health.
Boards of health shall send to the department every week, upon forms to be prescribed by it, a report of deaths in their towns for the week ending Saturday noon, from all diseases declared by the department to be dangerous to the public health.
Chapter 111: Section 30. Agents; appointment; inspections.
Boards of health may appoint agents or directors of public health to act for them in cases of emergency or if they cannot conveniently assemble, and any such agent or director shall have all the authority which the board appointing him had; but he shall in each case within two days report his action to the board for its approval, and shall be directly responsible to it and under its direction and control. An agent or director of public health appointed to make sanitary inspections may make complaint of violations of any law, ordinance or by-law relative to the public health.
Chapter 111: Section 31. Health regulations; summary publication; hearings; filing sanitary codes and related rules,
Boards of health may make reasonable health regulations. A summary which shall describe the substance of any regulation made by a board of health under this chapter shall be published once in a newspaper of general circulation in the city or town, and such publication shall be notice to all persons. No regulation or amendment thereto which relates to the minimum requirements for subsurface disposal of sanitary sewage as provided by the state environmental code shall be adopted until such time as the board of health shall hold a public hearing thereon, notice of the time, place and subject matter of which, sufficient for identification, shall be given by publishing in a newspaper of general circulation in the city or town once in each of two successive weeks, the first publication to be not less than fourteen days prior to the date set for such hearing, or if there is no such newspaper in such city or town, then by posting notice in a conspicuous place in the city or town hall for a period of not less than fourteen days prior to the date set for such hearing. Prior to the adoption of any such regulation or amendment which exceeds the minimum requirements for subsurface disposal of sanitary sewage as provided by the state environmental code, a board of health shall state at said public hearing the local conditions which exist or reasons for exceeding such minimum requirements. Whoever, himself or by his servant or agent, or as the servant or agent of any other person or any firm or corporation, violates any reasonable health regulation, made under authority of this section, for which no penalty by way of fine or imprisonment, or both, is provided by law, shall be punished by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars. Boards of health shall file with the department of environmental protection, attested copies of sanitary codes, and all rules, regulations and standards which have been adopted, and any amendments and additions thereto, for the maintenance of a central register pursuant to section eight of chapter twenty-one A.
Chapter 111: Section 31A. Permit for removal or transportation of garbage; application; exemptions.
No person shall remove or transport garbage, offal or other offensive substances through the streets of any city or town without first obtaining a permit from the board of health of such city or town; provided, however, that no rules or regulations shall restrict the hours of the day when garbage, offal or other offensive substances may be collected in areas zoned for business, commercial or industrial use. An application for such permit shall be in such form and contain such information, on oath, as such board shall require. All such permits shall expire at the end of the calendar year in which they are issued, but may be renewed annually on application as herein provided. No permit shall be transferred except with the approval of the said board. Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions, any person may, without such a permit, transport garbage, offal or other offensive substances through the streets of a city or town in which said substances were not collected; provided, that he registers with the board of health of such city or town; and, provided further, that he transports said substances in accordance with such reasonable rules and regulations as may be established by such board of health. Motor vehicles owned by the commonwealth or any of its political subdivisions and motor vehicles engaged under contract with the commonwealth in the transportation of garbage or refuse shall be exempt from the provisions of this section; provided, however, that a city or town may recommend to the department of highways, in writing, an alternative route of travel for such motor vehicles whereby the noise or nuisance incident to such travel shall be minimized or abated and said department shall consider such alterations or changes in the travel routes of such motor vehicles as will result in the minimization of such noise or nuisance.
Chapter 111: Section 31B. Rules and regulations for removal of garbage; penalty.
Boards of health shall, from time to time, make rules and regulations for the control of the removal, transportation or disposal of garbage, offal or other offensive substances. Whoever violates any provision of section thirty-one A, or of any rule or regulation made thereunder, shall be punished by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars.
Chapter 111: Section 31C. Atmospheric pollution; regulation and control; publication; hearings; penalties; enforcement.
A board of health, or other legal authority constituted for such purpose by vote of the town or city council shall have jurisdiction to regulate and control atmospheric pollution, including, but not limited to, the emission of smoke, particulate matter, soot, cinders, ashes, toxic and radioactive substances, fumes, vapors, gases, industrial odors and dusts as may arise within its bounds and which constitutes a nuisance, a danger to the public health, or impair the public comfort and convenience. Said board of health or other legal authority, subject to the approval of the department of environmental protection, in this section called the department, may from time to time adopt reasonable rules and regulations for the control of atmospheric pollution. Before the board of health or other legal authority submits such rules and regulations to the department for approval, such board or other legal authority shall hold a public hearing thereon, of which notice shall be given by publication for one day in each of two successive weeks in a newspaper published in the town, the first publication to be at least fourteen days prior to the date of the hearing, or if no newspaper is published in such town, by posting a copy of such notice in a public place therein. Said rules and regulations, when approved by the department, and after publication in a newspaper published in the town, or, if no newspaper is published in such town, after posting a copy in a public place, shall have the force of law. The department shall advise the board or other legal authority in all matters of atmospheric pollution. The department may, upon request of the board of health or other legal authority of a town adversely affected by atmospheric pollution arising in another town, after a hearing to all parties interested, assume joint jurisdiction to regulate or control such cause of atmospheric pollution and may exercise all powers of the local board of health or other legal authority under provisions of the General Laws or any special laws. Whoever violates any order, rule or regulation promulgated or adopted under the provisions of this section shall be punished, for the first offense, by a fine of not less than one thousand nor more than five thousand dollars and for a subsequent offense, by a fine of not less than five thousand nor more than ten thousand dollars. For the purpose of this paragraph each day or part thereof of violation of such an order, rule or regulation whether such violation be continuous or intermittent, shall be construed as a separate and succeeding offense. Rules and regulations promulgated or adopted under the provisions of this section shall be enforced by said board of health or other legal authority either of which may delegate the power to enforce specific regulations to other agencies or departments of the same city or town. The superior court shall have jurisdiction in equity to enforce such rules and regulations and may restrain by injunction any violation thereof.
Chapter 111: Section 31D. Privy, cesspool and septic tanks; disposal of contents; investigation of facilities.
Cities, towns and sewerage districts may, subject to the approval of the department of environmental protection, provide facilities for the receipt and disposal of privy, cesspool and septic tank contents collected for hire by private persons and may establish such charges for the use of such facilities as may be necessary for defraying the cost of construction, operating and maintaining the same. The commissioner of environmental protection may investigate facilities for the receipt and disposal of privy, cesspool and septic tank contents in cities, towns and sewerage districts. If in his opinion he determines such facilities are inadequate for proper disposal of such contents, he may recommend necessary action for the protection of the public. If after a reasonable time, the city, town or sewerage district fails to act upon his recommendation in a manner satisfactory to him, upon an order issued by the department of environmental protection, a city, town or sewerage district shall provide facilities for the receipt and disposal of privy, cesspool and septic tank contents collected for hire by private persons. The city, town or sewerage district may establish such charges for the use of such facilities as may be necessary for defraying the cost of constructing, operating and maintaining the same. (Amended by 1990, 177, Sec. 171 eff. 8-7-90.) Nothing in this section shall prevent a city, town or sewerage district, or a combination of cities and towns or cities, towns and a sewerage district from acting jointly in carrying out the provisions of this section.
Chapter 111: Section 31E. Individual sewage disposal systems; action on applications.
Any health officer or board of health for any city, town or district, whose authority includes the issuance of permits for construction, maintenance or alteration of individual sewage disposal systems for residential buildings of not more than four dwelling units, shall act upon a completed application for such permit to construct, maintain, or alter such system within forty-five days from the date upon which such completed application is filed with said health officer or board of health. If a determination on a completed application is not rendered within forty-five days by the appropriate health officer or board of health, then said permit shall be deemed to have been granted. For the purpose of this section, a completed application shall include, but not be limited to, information satisfactory to any local board of health regarding the number of deep observation holes, all percolation test results and a plan which meets the requirements of the state sanitary code and any local health regulation. Such application shall be considered filed on the date upon which a completed application is presented by the person who is seeking the permit, to the health officer, board of health or agent thereof. For the purpose of this section, “action on a completed application” shall mean approval of said application and issuance of the permit to construct, maintain, or alter, or disapproval of said application with a written statement of the reasons for such disapproval. The written statement of reasons, in the case of disapproval shall be sent to the applicant by first class mail, postage prepaid and shall include the information necessary in order to ascertain why the application or the proposed subsurface sewage disposal system or both fail to comply with local or state code requirements. Nothing contained in this section shall be deemed to exempt the applicant from the regulations promulgated under the provisions of section thirteen of chapter twenty-one A.