Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I chlorinate my private well?

You can disinfect the well by using chlorine bleach or hypochlorite granules according to the manufacturer's directions. One procedure for disinfecting using bleach is as follows:

1. pour a solution of three gallons of water and one pint of 3% to 6% commercial bleach directly into the well,
2. open all faucets until there is an odor of chlorine apparent and then close all faucets for ten hours to allow the bleach to kill bacteria present in the pipes, storage tank or well,
3. open all faucets and let the water run until the odor and taste of bleach have disappeared,
4. have a sample of water, taken 24 hours after disinfecting, tested at a certified laboratory to determine that the water is suitable for use.

Note: This procedure results in a high level of chorine so the water should not be used for drinking, cooking, or watering livestock until the chlorine odor and taste is no longer apparent. Use of bottled water or boiling water is suggested if citizens are unsure of the purity of their water supply.

How do I test my well water? What should I test for?

You should test private water supplies annually for nitrate and coliform bacteria to detect contamination problems early. Test the water more frequently and for more potential contamination, such as pesticides, if you suspect a problem. Bacteria testing typically costs between $25-$50 to complete. Testing for other contaminants will be more expensive. For example, testing for pesticides or organic chemicals may cost several hundred to several thousand dollars.
Many laboratories are available to test water quality. Laboratories are certified by the Department of Environmental Protection. You should ensure that the lab you are doing business with is certified to perform the lab test you are requesting. Listings can be found in the yellow pages under Laboratories.
If a standard is exceeded in your sample, retest the water supply immediately and contact the Board of Health. Some problems can be handled quickly. For example, disinfecting the well can sometimes control high bacteria concentrations. Filters or other on-site treatment processes may also remove some contaminants. Other problems may require new source water or a new, deeper well.

My apartment has a number of problems.  Can you help me?

If you are having problems with the living conditions in your apartment, a housing inspection can be done. The result is an order to correct any violations of the housing code. However, the occupant is equally responsible to properly care for the landlord's property. Housing inspections are limited to conditions that endanger or impair the health, safety or well being of the occupant. Aesthetic and cosmetic conditions are not applicable.

There is a dead crow / bird on my lawn, what do I do with it?

You must call the West Nile Virus Hotline at 1-800-627-7968.   They will assign it a case number or have you dispose of it.  If given a case number, call the Board of Health with your name, address, phone number, and where the bird is located, and we will have someone come to pick up the dead bird.

When are flu clinics for Belchertown residents held?

Dates of flu clinics are announced through the media and this website as soon as Belchertown's allotment of vaccine is confirmed and received and guidelines are issued by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

When is  perc  season and  how  do  I  schedule?
A percolation test is required by law prior to installing a septic system. Perc tests  for  new  construction may only be performed  each year in the Spring between March 1st and May 31st  and then  again in the Fall  from  September 1st through  November 30th.  Perc  tests  for  system  repairs  may  be  done  at  anytime  of  the  year. Perc tests must be witnessed by the health department staff. Please complete a perc application and return to the Board of Health Office with the fee. All fees must be paid prior to the perc test scheduling. The application and fee schedule is available on this website.

Who is licensed to repair my septic system?

The Board of Health has a complete list of licensed septic installers in the Town of Belchertown available. Also available are lists of licensed septic pumpers.

How often do I need to have my septic system pumped?

Every 2-3 year is recommended for most systems.

How do I locate my septic system?

The Board of Health has files on most properties in Belchertown built in the last 30 years. Many files include septic plans, as-built drawings and plot plans. to assist  in  locating the  record please  have  available  the  following  information when  you call  or  stop  by  the  health  office:  the lot number  referenced  in the deed  to the  property, the approximate  year the  system  was  built and , if  known,  the  name  of  the owner  at the  time the system  was  installed.

My septic system has failed! What do I do?

You need to repair and upgrade your septic system. You need to follow through on these 7 steps:

a) Hire a designer- a registered sanitarian or professional engineer: Hiring an experienced designer is a key step because that person will be doing the rest of the work on your behalf. Speak to your neighbors and others for references and their experiences.

b) Performance of a percolation and soil evaluation test:  This is done in the presence of a Board of Health Agent, a qualified soil evaluator (generally the same as your sanitarian or engineer) and a backhoe operator who will dig trenches and holes to facilitate this examination. Your sanitarian or engineer will schedule this test. Typical reasons for performing this test include i) the septic system failed upon inspection by a DEP-certified inspector; ii) the system needs to be pumped more than four (4) times per year; iii) the system is not working as indicated by odors, overflowing septage, etc. or iv) you are contemplating an increase in the number of bedrooms which renders your existing septic system inadequate.

c) Design of the system by the sanitarian/engineer:

d) Submission of the design to the Board of Health for approval: This approval process, assuming that the design is satisfactory, takes about 14 days. However, if variances are needed, the homeowner or sanitarian /engineer have to schedule a formal variance hearing at a BOH meeting via the BOH office.  Certain circumstances also require that the abutters be informed, so that they can be present at the hearing in front of the Board of Health. Once the plan is approved, you can proceed to the next step: installation.

e) Selecting the installer: The homeowner can now use the approved plan to get bids for installation of the system from installers who have a permit to install septic systems in Belchertown. A list of these installers is available at the BOH offices.

f) Install the system. One of the Board of Health staff will inspect the system during the installation process to ensure that the installation is proper. Also, the Board of Health requires that a final "as-built" plan be submitted to the Board since there can be small variations from the approved plan because of site conditions. The installer and engineer also have to provide certifications to the Board of Health that the engineering and installation was in accordance to Title 5.

g) Certificate of Compliance: When the entire process is complete, staff of the Board of Health will issue a Certificate of Compliance. This Certificate is necessary for the homeowner to take advantage of the tax credit offered by Massachusetts Department of Revenue or to transfer the property.


I want to open a restaurant in Belchertown.  What do I need from the Board of Health?

Congratulations on your new business venture.   To get started,  please see  the  information in the listed  in the food sections  of the permit/application  and the  environmental  health  headings  of the  Board of  Health  webpage.   

Is it acceptable to use my home kitchen to prepare food and cater events?

 No. The use of a residential kitchen is allowed only for the preparation of non-potentially hazardous food (such as baked goods and candy) which will be appropriately labeled and sold in retail stores. Home kitchens can not be used for catering. The preparation of non-potentially hazardous food items requires a permit from the Health Department.

How often does the Board of Health inspect restaurants in Belchertown?

The Health Department is required to inspect all restaurants in Belchertown at least twice per year. Establishments where problems have been cited are inspected more frequently.

Are permits transferable?

No. Permits are not transferable.  transferable.  The new owner/operator must apply and pay for new permits prior to use/operation.