As a new regular segment of YOWA’s newsletter, we will be interviewing local Health Directors to inform our readers about health departments throughout our region, the challenges they encounter, advice for our profession, and how YOWA helps them do their job.
Our inaugural column features an interview with Melissa Ranieri, Health Director for the Walpole Health Department and current YOWA Board Member.
What is the community you work for like and roughly how many onsite wastewater systems are built in a given year?
MR: I work for the Walpole Health Department. In addition to single component repairs, we have approximately 20 systems built a year. This would include new construction, as well as system repairs. The Town is comprised of about 40% septic and 60% sewer.
What is the staffing configuration at the health department, and how many people work either full-time or part-time with onsite wastewater?
MR: In Walpole we have 1 full time Deputy Health Agent who is responsible for onsite wastewater. As the Public Health Director, I am also available and credentialed to conduct onsite wastewater work.
What are some of the challenges you find with implementing Title 5 in your community?
MR: I think many homeowners are uneducated when it comes to onsite wastewater. Many individuals residing in homes with septic systems came from previous homes serviced by sewer. Providing routine education to residents on proper onsite septic maintenance is such an important factor yet sometimes can be a challenging task, due to time restraints, since onsite wastewater is just one of many items the health department oversees.
Is there anything an organization like YOWA can provide to enhance the professionalism of the on-site wastewater industry or just in general help you do your job better?
MR: Education is such a critical component to ensure those in the field know what they are doing. Those in the public field typically do not have a background in wastewater therefore it is important for regular onsite wastewater trainings to take place and be offered to those in local public health, as well as those in the onsite wastewater industry. Specifically, when it comes to onsite wastewater I think many health agents learn best with hands on training (plan review, field inspection, etc.).