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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Post 68 Seniors Top Westfield

WESTFIELD, Mass. -- Matt Burega pitched a complete game Tuesday to lead the Pittsfield Post 68 Seniors to a 4-1 win over Westfield in American Legion Baseball action at Bullens Field.
 
Jack Reed doubled, and Ben Jacob hit a two-run single for Post 68.
 
Pittsfield (1-0) is home against Northampton Post 28 on Wednesday evening at Clapp Park.
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