GROTON -- Weeks after deciding that it would entertain requests for variances related to the sale of raw milk in town, the Board of Health has not received a single application.
The news came from Chairman Jason Weber when the subject of raw milk came up for discussion at the board's meeting of Aug. 4.
The issue was brought up earlier in the year by Helen Cahen of Helene Stables, who raises goats and wished to sound out the board about its attitude toward the sale of raw milk in Groton.
The consumption of raw milk remains controversial due to questions about safety with advocates, including many who attended various BOH hearings on the subject, insisting that it was not harmful.
Raw milk is milk from a cow or goat that has not been treated through the pasteurization process.
Pasteurization was first introduced in the United States in the 1890s and because there was no way to discover which cows or goats carried bacteria, to be safe, all milk was ordered pasteurized, a practice that continues to the present with government health organizations recommending continued pasteurization.
However, a growing interest in natural foods has revived interest in raw milk, which some say includes healthy elements eliminated by the pasteurization process.
Research however, shows little difference nutritionally between raw and pasteurized milk.
Although restrictions on milk continue, many states such as Massachusetts and New Hampshire do allow the sale of raw milk.
For that reason, board members decided to approve the sale of raw milk in Groton, provided sellers fully comply with existing state regulations.
But with no applications so far, the board has chosen to discuss the issue further among themselves, including coming up with their own list of possible regulations including requiring applicants to submit to a state inspection of their premises before being allowed to sell.
Also on the board's agenda for Aug. 4 were a pair of issues dealing with septic system variances.
In the first, 96 Mill St. homeowner Erin Blodgett sought clarification on the number of bedrooms assigned to her house so that plans to upgrade the septic system could proceed.
The number of bedrooms was critical to Blodgett because the more there were, the more wastewater capacity her septic system would need to handle. A system whose size would be determined by how much room there was on her 14,000 square foot lot.
Complicating the issue, health agent Ira Grossman told board members, was that the property featured underground rock formations and nearby wetlands which reduced the area where a septic system could be located.
But the question of how many bedrooms was further complicated by the fact that two separate permits covering work at the house in past years allowed for different numbers of bedrooms. The earlier permit called for two bedrooms and a later permit for four.
Blodgett, however, told the board that she only wanted permission for three bedrooms and was willing to have the number permanently enshrined in a deed restriction.
Board members agreed in theory but for now approved the three-bedroom concept and asked that a formal septic design plan be submitted first with a hearing scheduled for Aug. 18.
The second item involved 49 Boathouse Road homeowner Brian Barbieri, who sought to upgrade a septic system on his property by installing a tight tank.
Engineer Scott Dupre, who represented Barbieri, told board members that because of the pitch of his client's property, it would be impossible to install a conventional system.
"There's no way to put a septic system on this lot," said Dupre.
However, of concern to the board was a declared intention to hook up the property to the town's water distribution system, which would negate a possible threat to the lot's well site. But though indicated in a design plan submitted earlier, the hookup was not present in the latest submission.
According to Dupre, the town's water main was more than 500 feet from the property, too far to hook up. Since Barbieri worked for the town, he said, he assumed his client knew whether or not it was feasible to make the connection.
Nevertheless, board members expressed concern and asked that Dupre make sure the water main was not within the 500 foot limit. If it was, they would require that Barbieri hook up.
Board members also asked that Barbieri have his well tested for water quality and have the results ready before the next meeting, which was continued until Aug. 18.