Monday, September 24, 2018

Happenings at CCHD: Public Health Sanitarian

Septic system installation

I have been working as a Public Health Sanitarian in the Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Division at the Clinton County Health Department for 18 years. My job requires me to wear many hats as I work with a variety of “Permitted Facilities” and programs that serve you, the public! Permitted Facilities and programs regulated by the various NYS Sanitary Codes include:
·         Food Service Establishments
·         Public Water Systems
·         Bathing Facilities, Pools & Beaches
·         Mobile Home Parks
·         Campgrounds
·         Children’s Camps
·         Migrant Labor Camps
·         Temporary Residences
·         Tanning Facilities
·         Agricultural Fairs
·         Individual Sewer Treatment Systems
·         Rabies
·         Nuisance Complaints


My typical day is anything but typical. I could be inspecting a permitted facility such as a restaurant, campground, hotel or migrant labor camp; visiting a construction site to inspect a septic system; working as the Duty Officer or investigating Bite Reports as the Rabies Officer.

Duty Officer…What is that?
There is always a Duty Officer answering phone calls related to the programs regulated by EHS or to connect the public with resources on issues not under our jurisdiction. If you aren’t answering phone calls as the Duty Officer you are reviewing septic system applications, talking with a walk-in individual about what is required to open up a restaurant or taking in a complaint.
You never know what kind of phone calls will be received on a Duty Officer Day. They could be about a suspicious acting raccoon, one neighbor complaining about the lack of cleaning by another neighbor, a suspected foodborne illness or even the aftermath of an unattended death. In some cases, the calls may not be under the jurisdiction of EHS (for example, mold in an apartment). In this case the Duty Officer would direct the caller with someone who can help. In my 18 years, even if our Department cannot help, in this day of automation, sometimes just listening and empathizing with the caller is very much appreciated.  

Rabies Officer…That Sounds Dangerous!
All medical care providers and law enforcement professionals are required to report all animal bites to the Health Department.  In the Rabies Program the Sanitarian works as the Rabies Officer, conducting the follow up investigation. The concern, of course, is rabies. Do you know what you should do if you are bitten by a pet, bat or other wildlife? Or how the Rabies Officer keeps the public safe? Read our recent blog to find out!

A Dirty Job
The Sanitarian’s role in the Sewage Program involves issuing construction permits, traveling to a construction site, inspecting the septic system and (hopefully!) issuing a “Certificate of Acceptance” to the home owner. In this day and age many banks require this certificate before providing a home loan.

The Infamous Inspector
Food service inspection at a local establishment.
As 1 of the 5 Sanitarians and 3 Public Health Technicians here at the Health Department, I have the responsibility of inspecting a number of the 711 Permitted Facilities. The facilities in Clinton County are inspected for compliance with the County Code and the various NYS Sanitary Codes.  As an inspector I prefer to teach compliance using education as opposed to writing violations and taking enforcement action.

Public Water Systems
In addition to the routine inspection, many Permitted Facilities are also served by Public Water Systems that are regulated by the EHS Division. Sanitarians conduct annual inspections or “Sanitary Surveys” at Public Water Systems. These surveys are documented in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) data base. Public Water Systems include:
·         Community Water Systems: Municipalities (cities, towns, villages) and privately owned (Homeowners Associations, apartment complexes and mobile home parks) and
·         Non-Community Water Systems: Transient Non-Community Water Systems (rest stops, parks, convenience stores and restaurants) and Non-Transient Non-Community Water Systems (schools, colleges, hospitals and factories).

I could go on and on, but this is a quick snap shot of what Sanitarians do here at the Health Department. Although we are not always the most popular people in town, please remember that Public Health Sanitarian’s are the foot soldiers promoting public health by enforcing the Sanitary Code to keep YOU safe!

For more a more detailed look at the EHS Division, check out our Annual Report.

Richard Munn, Public Health Sanitarian
Environmental Health and Safety Division
North Country Native