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It should embrace, if possible, a physician, engineer, lawyer and merchant.
Its medical member should be its secretary and executive officer.
Its members should be elected for five years, the term of one to expire yearly.
Its secretary should have a fixed and adequate compensation.
The fullest records and files of its transactions and correspondence should be preserved.
The territory of the town in which it operates should be divided into districts, and certain members be made responsible for the oversight of each district.
It should frame and put in force as complete a code of health regulations as possible, based upon the provisions of law, so far as any may exist and apply.
HEALTH REGULATIONS.—By the terms of the General Statutes, * a board is empowered to "make such regulations as it judges necessary for the public health and safety,” and a penalty of "not exceeding one hundred dollars,". attaches to their infraction. It will be observed that in this general clause resides all the authority that attaches to such regulations as a board may establish, except in so far as these regulations may be founded upon other special sections of law providing for particular matters or conditions. It is to be regretted that the force of the general clause is sometimes rendered in great part inoperative, by the definite determinations of individual laws. It has happened to the writer to meet with the following complicated and unfortunate condition of things. By one of the health regulations of his town, vaccination was, in conformity with law,f made obligatory, but in a certain case was refused. Recourse was had to the process of law indicated by the statute, and the justice before whom the complaint was brought, in view of the aggravated circumstances, would have imposed a fine of some twenty dollars or more, as a penalty for the infraction of a health regulation requiring vaccination, but found himself barred
* Chap. 26, sect. 6. + Chap. 26, sect. 27.
from so doing by the special section, * which places the penalty of neglect or refusal in the sum of five dollars. The ruling of the justice was affirmed by the attorney-general, in a letter to the writer, in the following words : "A local board of health cannot by regulation control or enlarge the operation of the statute upon the same subject, so far as penalties are concerned.” It is evident, therefore, that in the framing of regulations, it is desirable to found them closely upon the most relevant law, and in case of prosecution, to see that the case is not weakened by the imposition of an illegal penalty, and failure of punishment ensue.
It is doubtful, too, if the ruling of the attorney-general, in regard to the powers of health regulations, does not extend to provisions of law other than penalties, and while it might be the judgment of a board that every child should be vaccinated at six months of age, so long as the statutet fixes the least limitation at a day under two years, it is doubtful if a regulation requiring earlier vaccination would have any force or validity.
It will hardly escape the attention of a competent officer, that all regulations issued by a board, whether made as a code at its induction into office, or from time to time subsequently, must be published in a newspaper, if there is one in the town (by preference, at least three times), or if not, by 'posting.” An instance is on record, however, of the nonsuit of a board in a case in court, from its inability to prove that its regulations had been legally published. While the existing health-laws of this Commonwealth are still in some respects conflicting and difficult of interpretation, they have, as amended in late years, been found adequate, when action has been based upon careful consideration of said laws.
Especial attention is called to the regular requirements of procedure in the issuing of orders for the abatement of nuisances, etc., not a few failures to establish prosecutions having occurred under the knowledge of the writ various localities, from neglect in this respect.
All orders should be in writing.
* Chap. 26, sect. 28. + Gen. Stats., chap. 26, sect. 27. I Gen. Stats., chap. 26, sect. 9.
They should be served by a competent officer in the prescribed manner; and
Proper time should be allowed for the voluntary action of the offender.
[Chap. 2.] BOARD WORK.—The three definite heads under which the labors of a local board will be put forth, are
The Prevention of Disease;
Under the caption of the Prevention of Disease, we come to the consideration of the most obvious causes of public illhealth, and some of these, as requiring most frequently the official cognizance and action of the health-officer, it is proposed to review somewhat in detail.
PRIVIES, ETC.—Prominent among the causes that contribute to the ill-health of communities, both directly and indirectly, is the imperfect manner in which human excreta are at present disposed of. For generations the vaults, outhouses and latrines of common use, have existed, reproaches to decency, "a reek in the nostrils,” generators of disease, and annoyances that only a seeming necessity made tolerable. By far the largest percentage of complaints made to local boards are of these sources of discomfort and disease, and the regulations that bear thereon require to be ample and stringent.
The regulations affecting privies, established by the board with which the writer has been connected, are as follows:
Reg. 1.— No privy or water-closet, not having a water-tight vault, or such vault with a water-tight drain, to convey the contents to a proper reservoir, shall be established within two rods of any well, spring, or other source of water used for culinary purposes; and such reservoir shall be at least two rods from any such water source. Provided, however, that earth-privies or closets, where dry earth or ashes is daily added to the deposit vaults, in sufficient quantity to absorb all moisture, and the entire contents are removed weekly, may be so established.
REG. 2.—No privy-vault shall open into any stream, ditch or drain, except common sewers, or in the manner specified in Reg. 1.
To which is attached a regulation, requiring that within certain limits (the thickly populated section of the town) no night-soil shall be removed until 10 o'clock at night. It early became the unanimous opinion of the board, that these regulations were insufficient, and that further safeguards for an agency capable of so much mischief, were requisite. It was determined that the character of the soil upon which the shallow-vaulted privies stood, should become a much more influential factor in the reckoning of the possibilities of water contamination therefrom. In two instances of complaint, where the privies alleged to be the sources of contamination were located at a distance of over three and a half rods from the wells fouled (with the ground at a gentle incline toward the well in one case), an examination showed the superstrata to be a sandy loam underlaid by a coarse gravel and sand, forming an admirable percolator for the noxious fluid of the vaults, which an analysis of the water showed to be undoubtedly present. It is an interesting fact in this connection, that
. after the vaults were removed, and the wells had several times been filled and pumped out, the water retained sufficient of the offensive influx to be obnoxious to the taste, and although now in use, of course cannot be pronounced free from the danger that has invaded it. Nothing cries more loudly for relief and reform, than the condition of things in this regard in the cities and larger towns unsupplied with sewerage or an aqueduct water-system. The proximity of wells and cisterns to vaults, cesspools and open drains, is as langerous as sickening. It is doubtful if, in the heart of the town in which this is written, there is any point at which some well or cistern is not within sixty feet of some vault, cesspool or open drain, and subject to the intercommunicating channels of overflow, burrowing animals, * or broken drains. In hardly any way can health-officers more surely promote the health, wealth, comfort and convenience of their neighborhoods, than by introducing to general use the dry-earth system in some of its forms.
There exist to-day upon the line of the Boston and Maine Railroad, several stations in which the waiting-rooms are rendered so offensive by the effluvia from the underlying or adjacent vaults, as to be positively repulsive and infamous. By the abolition of this old system of receptacles, and the introduction of any of the best known styles of earth-closets, this evil might be readily removed, and it becomes the duty of the boards of health of these respective localities, to interpose their authority in this behalf.
* Braithwaites' Retrospect, July, 1871, p. 39.
There exists in this immediate vicinage an extensive factory, employing more than a thousand operatives, where the buildings exhibit their tiered privies, blackened with the foul vapors that arise from their vaults, indicative of the pestilential atmosphere those who use them must endure, and the deleterious influence they must exert upon those employed in their vicinity, to say nothing of the vast waste involved in the ultimate washing away by a sluggish stream of the valuable product, ascertained to have by actual computation, a fertilizing value of over $2,000 per annum, in its crudest form.
To the subtle but powerfully injurious effects of such immediate surroundings as these, superadded to the confinement and devitalizing influences of this class of: labor, is no sınall degree of the low health and mortality of factory operatives due, and their features and remedy are not less important than legitimate objects of consideration for local boards of health. It will be interesting to note under the discussion of sewerage, the relationship it has been sought to establish between the stream into which the contents of these factory privies are discharged, and the domestic water-supply of a neighboring city.
The experiments of Rothschild and others, sufficiently attest the profit that, under good management, may be reaped from supplying dry earth to the inhabitants of villages for closet use, and removing it subsequently for fertilizing purposes. Boards of health, having opportunities of so doing, or in the neighborhood of popular seaside or other resorts, will do well to consider the possibility of securing therefrom both health and pecuniary return. It should be made a requirement of health regulations in every town, that all removals of nightsoil should be during the night, between ten o'clock and four, and that all apparatus employed,—as wagons, buckets, etc., -should be thoroughly water-tight.