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Board of Health approves new town biosafety regulation

by | Nov 1, 2023 | Business, News

The Board of Health at a 20-minute meeting Monday evening approved the town’s new biosafety regulation 2-0 in an effort to safeguard the public and monitor the use of all biological agents in town.

Health Department Director Shaun McAuliffe explained that the Hopkinton Chamber of Commerce had approached him about creating and adopting a biosafety regulation for the town. It was modeled after Cambridge’s regulation because of the city’s reputation of being a worldwide leader in the biopharmaceutical industry, housing companies including Moderna, Biogen and Merck.

“Cambridge has delved into these problems in their community,” said BOH chair Richard Jacobs. “And it’s appropriate to now make sure that we protect our citizens here by doing the same on their behalf.”

Added McAuliffe: “What we’ve done is that we’ve worked with several communities that have biosafety regulations in place now.”

Jacobs explained that the meeting was held to answer questions from the public, although no residents were in attendance. The meeting started 40 minutes late because the board did not have a quorum until member Regina Miloslavsky arrived.

The regulation is detailed in scope. McAuliffe and Jacobs provided 17 edits to the original draft, and the final version will be available on the town website. The regulation calls for the creation of the Hopkinton Biosafety Committee that would notify the BOH of any violations and recommend fines. There also is an explanation of the four biosafety levels. McAuliffe explained that currently there are no entities operating above a biosafety Level 2, which is the second strongest of the four.

The BOH would oversee this regulation “under its regulatory bylaw,” he said. Biological agents include microorganisms, infectious substances or compoents of either of these that are at a Level 3 or 4 on the risk scale.

“Under this regulation, the Health Department Director and the Board of Health have the authority,” McAuliffe said. “Then the Hopkinton Biosafety Committee will be the organizing board that reviews documents together with us and will be the voting organizational review board that provides us direction as to how to act on a regulatory basis.”

McAuliffe and the BOH “will maintain the final responsibility for enforcement,” he added. They also will be able to get technical assistance from professional consultants when needed.

If an accident occurs, it should be reported to the Health Department director or the Hopkinton Biosafety Committee. The biosafety permit holder would have to comply with rules regarding effluent and soil testing. The director and the Board of Health would have the authority to revoke, suspend or modify a permit if significant violations are discovered.

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