Environmental health issues discussed at Rotary

Published 6:51 pm Tuesday, March 10, 2015


Decatur County’s Lead Environmental Health Specialist Ansley Johnson told Rotary on Tuesday about the variety of services performed by his branch of the Southwest Georgia Health District.

Calling Environmental Health, “The Invisible Profession,” Johnson said it is mandated by state and local regulations to inspect and control the safety of the food in local restaurants, tourist accommodations, public swimming pools, onsite sewage treatment, private water wells, Tattoo studios, rabies control and emergency preparedness.

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Food service inspection is very detailed and important. Johnson quoted CDC figures that each year one in every six persons becomes ill from foodborne diseases.

Restaurant food inspections focus on five items: food holding temperatures, inadequate cooking, food from unsafe sources, poor personal hygiene and contaminated equipment. Each establishment is required to have two routine inspections per year, plus they respond to complaints from citizens. Johnson said the department typically has a response time of one to three days on a complaint.

Likewise, lodges, bed and breakfasts, hotels and motels are required to hold permits and be inspected routinely for unsanitary or hazardous conditions.

Eleven public swimming pools are routinely checked for contaminated water or hazardous conditions.

Installation of new septic tanks requires on-site sewage management and must be permitted. Last year 290 sites were evaluated and 150 tanks installed or repaired.

Rabies Control requires an investigation of all animal bites and anyone bitten must seek medical attention. The department works closely with law enforcement, animal control, veterinarians and health care providers to manage any rabies outbreaks.

New private water wells must also be permitted and maintained. It is recommended that all wells be tested at least once a year for bacteria or contaminants.

A relatively new responsibility for his department is inspection of studios performing body tattoos and body art, which includes piercing of body parts, with the exception of earlobes.

Ongoing training in all these fields is required of the specialists, and the department also provides training to the managers and operators of the various service businesses.

In addition to all of the above, the department is trained to handle natural disasters and emergency preparedness.