Dalton Board of Health Amends Green Burial Verbiage

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff
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DALTON, Mass. —T he Board of Health amended the green burial guidelines during its meeting on Wednesday. 
 
In April, the board approved the guidelines stating that "Ebola or any other diseases that the CDC or Massachusetts Department of Public Health deem unsuitable for green burials can not be approved by the town Board of Health."
 
Following communication with the state Department of Environmental Protection, the board on Wednesday voted to revise it to add Anthrax and Prion to the list of diseases deemed unsuitable for green burials.
 
The revised guidelines say that if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or state DEP "deems any disease unsuitable for green burials, the Board of Health will not approve it. Known examples include Ebola, Anthrax, and Prion diseases."
 
Over the last few months, the board has been navigating how to include communicable diseases in its guidelines to prevent them from spreading.  
 
During this process, Town Health Agent Agnes Witkowski worked to clarify the state's guidelines, attending a presentation on the practice and consulting with people from various organizations. 
 
Following this line of inquiry, it was determined that the state is behind in developing guidelines for green burials.
 
There are approximately 150 communities in the state that allow green burials, but they all have different rules and have gone about it in different ways, he said. 
 
The cemetery trustees are still very early in establishing green burials. This excludes people who want to be buried in their yards, which would be a separate process. 
 
The trustees started exploring this initiative in April when they were considering updating fees. Bartels brought the option before the board after noticing that Great Barrington approved green burials in August 2020. 
 
Great Barrington is one of several dozen communities in the state that offer green burials, though it took three years to accomplish this. Stockbridge, Mount Washington, and the private Pine Grove Cemetery in Sheffield also allow natural burials. 
 
Green burials do not include a burial vault and use a wooden casket, biodegradable casket, or shroud, or cloth. 
 
A green burial could also be a bottomless vault, which is good because it does not allow for the ground to settle. Any of these methods allow for the body to decay into the ground. 
 
The trustees needed something from the Board of Health that addresses diseases so that it could be added to the cemetery's book of regulations. This is not a town bylaw; it is a cemetery regulation. 
 
The trustees hope to have the perc tests done by June. These tests will determine whether the decaying bodies will leach into the aquifer.
 
The trustees originally planned on having a designated section for green burials at Ashuelot Cemetery. 
 
They later decided that opening up the option for the entire cemetery is better because there will be cases where someone wants to be buried alongside a loved one who chose not to have a green burial. 

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Dalton Planning Board Works to Update Special Permit Fees

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff
DALTON, Mass. — The Planning Board is navigating how to update its special permit fees to bring them up to date with the current costs of services. 
 
During the board meeting last week, Town Planner Janko Tomasic said the cost of completing the services is higher than what it costs to take action on the application.
 
The current application fee charged by the Board of Appeals and the Planning Board is $375. 
 
This fee is intended to cover the cost of labor, time, materials, postage for the certified abutters list for abutter notification, postage for the certified mail for the notice of the decision, and two Berkshire Eagle legal advertisements for the public hearing.
 
"According to the data, the base cost for a permit application is barely enough to cover the cost of the application process," according to Tomasic's special-permit costs breakdown. 
 
Based on the last six permits, the least expensive permit is $414 to complete because of the increase in cost for the steps in the permit process.   
 
The flat certified mail fee for eight letters is $69.52, which covers the cost of certified mail to abutting towns, the applicant, and notice of the decision to the applicant
 
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