Board of Health Duties and Responsibilities

Following is a partial list of duties and responsibilities of the local board of health. Most items include a citation to the statute or regulation which imposes the duty or responsibility.

Records, Recordkeeping and Reports
  1. Maintain numerous records and retain them for required minimum retention periods.
  2. Process numerous types of reports of cases of diseases.
Health Care and Disease Control

Receive reports of cases of disease dangerous to the public health. Keep records of these reports and also forward copies of these reports to the local school committee, and to other local boards in whose jurisdiction the patient resides, or may have contracted the disease, or may have exposed others. Report cases of dangerous diseases to the Department of Public Health within twenty-four hours. The Topsfield Board of Health is part of MAVEN, the Massachusetts Viral Epidemiology Network.

Housing and Dwellings:
  1. Enforce Chapter II of the State Sanitary Code:  Minimum Standards of Fitness for Human Habitation, M.G.L. c.111, ss.127A and 127B:  105 CMR 410.000. Enforcement of Chapter II includes inspecting dwellings for compliance with the minimum standards, certifying violations, issuing orders, holding hearings, granting variances and instituting court proceedings if necessary to enforce such orders.
  2. Enforce the State Lead Poisoning Prevention regulations. M.G.L. c.111, s.198;  105 CMR 460.000.
  3. Review and approve or disapprove preliminary and definitive plans for the subdivision of land. M.G.L. c.41, ss.81S-81V.
Hazardous Wastes:
  1. Assign the site for a hazardous waste disposal facility according to M.G.L. c.111, s.150B.
  2. Chairperson of board serves on the local assessment committee, established whenever a developer seeks to construct and operate a hazardous waste facility within the town. M.G.L. c.21D, s.5.
  3. Notify the board of selectmen of the following (M.G.L. c.21C, s.4):
    1. Pending applications for licenses for the collection, storage, treatment or disposal of hazardous waste, upon notification from DEP.
    2. Information supplied annually by DEP identifying types and quantities of hazardous waste generated, stored, treated or disposed of within the town.
Solid Waste:
  1. Periodically inspect sanitary landfill sites, and provide written notice of deficiencies. 310 CMR 19.25
  2. Inspect and verify satisfactory completion of all corrective work to sanitary landfill projects. 310 CMR 19.32; 18.27.
Septage and Garbage:
  1. Enforce Title V of the State Environmental Code; Minimum Requirements for the Subsurface disposal of Sewage, Title 5: The State Environmental Code 310 CMR 15.00. For further information and common Title V questions, see
  1. Investigate nuisances which in the board’s opinion may be injurious to health. The board shall destroy, prevent or remove such nuisances, and shall make regulations relateive to nuisances. M.G.L. c.111, s.122.
  1. Issue permits for all food service establishments, including restaurants and food service facilities in stores, recreational camps for children, family style campgrounds, institutions, hotels, motels, schools, retail food stores, mobile food units and pushcarts etc. 105 CMR 590.000.
  2. Enforce Chapter X of the State Sanitary Code: Minimum Sanitation Standards for Food Establishments, 105 CMR 590.000. Enforcement includes conducting inspections, issuing orders, suspending or revoking permits where necessary.
Pools and Beaches:
  1. Enforce Chapter VII of the State Sanitary Code: Minimum Standards for Bathing Beaches, 105 CMR 445.000. Enforcement includes issuing annual licenses, approving plans for new or altered beaches, issuing orders, holding hearings, granting variances, receiving reports of accidents, taking water samples.
  2. Prohibit swimming in water that fails to meet proscribed standards for bathing. 105 CMR 445.10 (-3)
  3. Enforce Chapter V of the State Sanitary Code, "Minimum Standards for Swimming Pools."
Camps, Motels and Mobile Home Parks:
  1. Inspect all recreational camps for children and family style campgrounds, motels, mobile home parks and cabins and annually issue licenses for these facilities. M.G.L. c.140, ss 32B and 32C.
  2. Enforce Chapter VI of the State Sanitary Code: Sanitary Standards for Recreational Camps for Children, 105 CMR 430.000. Enforcement includes inspection, issuing orders and licenses; conducting hearings, granting variances.
  1. Pesticides: Local boards may make reasonable health regulations regarding pestidides provided such regulations are not inconsistent with the Massachusetts Pesticide Control Act, M.G.L. c.132B or state regulations 333 CMR 2.00.
  2. Nominate animal inspectors, M.G.L. c.129, s.15.
  3. Issue burial permits, M.G.L. c.14, s.45.
  1. Receive written complaints regarding the willful failure or refusal to comply with the Indoor Clean Air Act regarding restaurants, supermarkets or retail food outlets. M.G.L. c. 270 s.22.
  2. Inspect the area described in the complaint and enforce no-smoking laws. M.G.L. c.270 s.22.
  3. Provide written response to complainant within 15 days and send copies of the complaint and response to DPH.  M.G.L. c270 s.22.

Additional Powers and Authority of Local Boards of Health in Massachusetts

The following is a partial list of statutes which grant additional powers and authority.

General Health Protection and Regulation:
  1. Adopt and enforce any reasonable health regulations M.G.L. c.111, s.31.
  2. Issue an order reciting the existence of an emergency and requiring that such action be taken as the board deems necessary to meet the emergency. State Sanitary Code, Chapter 1, 105 CMR 400.200(B) pursuant to M.G.L. c.111, s.127A; and State Environmental Code, Title I, 310 CMR 11.05(1).
Health Care and Disease Control
  1. Direct the operation of and adopt rules for city and town medical, dental and health clinics. M.G.L.
  2. Require vaccination of inhabitants of the town. M.G.L. c.111, s.181.
Housing and Dwellings:
  1. Condemn a dwelling which is unfit for human habitation, order the occupants to vacate, order the owner to clean the dwelling or tear it down (or the board may itself clean or tear down). M.G.L. c.111, s.127B.
  1. Condemn all nuisances; clean or tear down a nuisance M.G.L. c.111, s.128.
  1. Inspect and condemn all unfit meat, fish, vegetables, produce, fruit or provisions of any kind. M.G.L. C.94, S.146; 105 CMR 590.059.
  2. Adopt and enforce regulations relative to the keeping and exposure of food for sale M.G.L. c.94, 2.146.
  3. Upon determination that drinking water in a dwelling or food service establishment is unsafe, order discontinuance of use or order provisions of a new source. M.G.L. c.111 s.122A
  1. Adopt and enforce regulations to control air pollution. M.G.L. c.111, s.31C.