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Environmental health stretched thin
Health advice
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Standing rain and continued showers have the potential to increase west Nile virus. Elevated temperatures bring increased risk for heat stroke and food poisonings. Summer weather disturbances require constant disaster preparedness and vigilance for rabies among wild and domesticated animals.
These are just a few of the issues your Environmental Health Department will be occupied with this summer.
The department is involved in a wide range of services and programs. In addition to inspection and surveillance, environmental health responsibilities include everything from disaster planning and emergency preparedness to safety and injury prevention. Education is at the forefront of all these responsibilities.
The mission of the Environmental Health Program is to provide prevention through a combination of surveillance, education enforcement and assessment programs designed to identify, prevent and abate the environmental conditions that adversely impact human health.
Funding cuts have taken their toll on environmental programs for years. The most recent state cuts have left the department short of staff, supplies and equipment at a time when the county is seeing an increase in population and regulations. Should we have a disaster, help from other counties’ environmental departments and public health would be a necessity.
Working hand-in-hand with health professionals, environmentalists may track infectious individuals or their contacts one day and inspect septic systems on another. Their responsibilities routinely increase. Environmental Health covers the following programs:

Food service
• Permits all permanent, temporary and special food services.
• Inspects all food establishments (2-4 times per year).
• Reinspects as often as necessary to assure compliance with regulations.
• Reviews plans on all new food establishments.
• Offers training for food service employees.
• Collects fees from establishments.

Tourist accommodations
• Permits all establishments listed as tourist courts.
• Inspects establishments two times per year.
• Reinspects accommodations as necessary.
• Reviews plans on new tourist accommodations
• Collects fees from establishments.

Septic program
• Evaluates areas for septic systems.
• Evaluates existing systems for malfunctions.
• Permits new septic systems (soil evaluation to final approval).
• Investigates complaints.
• Permits repairs to systems.
• Regulates septic haulers.
• Collects fees for services.

Potable water systems
• Inspects well casing and grouting at installation.
• Tests water quality (upon request) on wells.
• Collects fees for services.

Complaint investigation
• Investigates complaints reported to EH.

Swimming pools
• Permits new public and semi-public pools.
• Reviews plans for new pools prior to construction.
• Collects fees.

New subdivision review
• Evaluates plans, lots, soils and surrounding facilities before approving plans.
• Writes a letter on findings.
• Collects fees.
• OKs plans when comments and conditions are met.

Rabies investigations
• Investigates animal bites reported to EH.
• Coordinates quarantine of biting animal.

Epidemiological investigations
• Follows guidelines in investigating any disease.
The department and public health are looking for volunteers to assist with services needed if our county experienced a natural disaster, pandemic or terrorist action.  Anyone interested, can notify Pam Laynor, clerical manager, at 876-2173, ext. 208.

Ratcliffe is an information specialist with the Coastal Health District. Call her at 876-2173, ext. 236.
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