Environmental Health

hands holding earth and plant


Private Water Testing

Why should my well water be tested?

Drinking contaminated water is a health risk. Some contaminants cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted. Two of the most common contaminants in drinking water are coliform bacteria and nitrate and they can be harmful.

Who should be testing my well water?

You or your landlord. Private well users are responsible for testing their own water. If you don't own your home but you use a provate well, talk with your landlord about getting your water tested of seeing the most recent results. You can always take a water sample yourself and have it tested.

What should I test for and how often?

The Department of Health recommends that you test your private well water every year for coliform bacteria and nitrate.

You should also test your water when:

  • You notice a change in your water, such as taste, color, or smell. *
  • Your well has been flooded.
  • You replace any part of your well system.
  • Someone in your household is pregnant, nursing, or has an unexplained illness and you suspect your water may be at risk.
  • You hear a neighbor's water is contaminated.
  • You live near industrial or agricultural activities. *

*These may require testing for something other than coliform or nitrate.

Garfield County Health District can provide the water sample bottles. Please contact Garfield County Health District to pick up water bottles, water sampling instructions, and information on where to send your samples for testing.

Laws and regulations:

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Swimming Pools

This program issues operating permits, conducts field inspections, and evaluates performance to assure public health and safety standards are being maintained. During field inspections, chemical testing is used to evaluate water quality, water monitoring and record keeping is reviewed, facility maintenance is evaluated, education materials are provided and compliance/enforcement of regulations is discussed as necessary.

Click here for more information

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Food Worker Cards

All food workers are required to have a valid food worker card to work in Washington. It's important that your card, or a copy of it, is with you at work and available for the Health Department to check during food inspection. For more on the rules, read Food Worker Card Regulations, Chapter 246-217 WAC.

Food handler tests can be completed online at http://www.foodworkercard.wa.gov or at the Garfield County Health District office. Cards through the online course are paid by credit card, whereas cards through the Health Office are paid for by cash or check. The cost is $10.00. The card is good for 2 years, then renewal cards are good for 3 years if renewed before the expiration date.

Click here for more information.

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Food Service Establishments

The Garfield County Health District is responsible for ensuring that safe food handling practices are being conducted in all Food Service Establishments in Garfield County. We do this by conducting routine inspections and through complaint investigation.

Click here for more information.

Food Service Permit Application

Temporary Food Service Permit Application

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You can find more information about Mold on the Washington State Department of Health webiste at http://www.doh.wa.gov/CommunityandEnvironment/Contaminants/Mold.aspx

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On-Site Sewage

Washtenaw County, Michigan has graciously provided us with a short video that explains how a septic system works.

Image removed.It's All Connected - A video on our septic systems

What is a Septic System?

A septic system is a small-scale wastewater treatment plant that you own and operate. It treats and disposes of all the wastewater generated in your home or business.

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Types of Septic Systems

Below are the different types of septic systems. You can click on the system to find more information about that system.

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Permitting On-Site Sewage Systems

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Maintaining Your Septic System

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Do I need a Permit?

Yes. A permit to build or repair a septic system is required any time.

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New septic systems

When a client is proposing to build on a new lot that requires a septic system there are several items that must be checked to insure the proper septic system is installed on the parcel. The items that an Environmental Health Specialist must check on are:

  1. Lot size and location
  2. Type of water supply (public water system or individual well)
  3. How many bedrooms (This determines how big the septic system needs to be.)
  4. The type of soils on that lot (This determines the type of septic system that is required, a test hole may be required.)
  5. Reviewing the site plan shows the location of the house, septic, well, pool, out-buildings, etc... (This is to insure that all minimum distances are maintained).

If you have any questions about the permitting process please contact our office at 509.843.3412.

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Replacement of an existing septic system

If you think you need a septic system repair, the first thing to do is contact a certified installer. The installer will be able to look at the multiple elements of your system and possibly determine where the failure is originating from.

Replacing an existing septic system requires a site visit from the Garfield County Environmental Health Specialist. The site visit is to make sure there is adequate room on the property to install a new septic system that meets all of the current regulations. If you own a septic system that needs to be replaced, please contact 509.843.3412 to set up an appointment.

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How to locate your system

If we do not have an as-built for your system, you should be able to find the septic tank by probing with a steel rod gently tapped into the ground, starting five feet from where the sanitary sewer leaves your house. You may be able to use a metal detector to help you locate the tanks as they are made of concrete with rebar, and the handles on the lids are usually made of metal wire. The lids on the tank are circular, 20"-24" in diameter and 5'-5 1/2' apart.

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How to maintain your septic system

The longevity of you on-site septic system relies heavily on the way that you care for it. Maintaining your system involves monitoring not only what goes into it, but also scheduling regular pumping for your septic tank and protecting the system from surface water and drainage, soil compaction, and other activities or site development that might negatively impact the system and eventually cause it to fail. Additionally, some systems require additional routine maintenance. Below are some useful documents that help to protect and prolong your septic system.

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Septic record files

Every owner of an on-site sewage system needs to know where the on-site sewage system is located in order to properly maintain it. Pumpers may charge you extra to locate and/or dig up the lids to the septic tank so they are able to pump the septic tank. If you do not know where your system is located, you may be able to obtain this information. This document is called an "as-built," and it is a drawing of the location of your system when it was inspected after it was completed. When inquiring about an as-built, please have the parcel number and/or the address of the lot in question.

Garfield County has septic permits from 1976 on file. Before 1975, permits were not required by law. If your system was installed before 1975, no records may be available.

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Why do septic systems fail

Septic systems do not last indefinitely, and eventually even the most well taken care of system will fail when the treatment properties of the soil in the drain field have been exhausted. A system may also fail due to poor design or installation or unsuitable soils. More often then not, though, a failing system is caused by homeowner misuse.

Overloading the system with too much water- Septic tanks function by allowing solids to float and settle, so that relatively "clean" water from the middle layer of the tank is sent to the drain field for further treatment. By sending too much water through the system (by washing all your loads of laundry in one day, for example) you could be pushing solids into the drain field before they have a chance to settle out. This can clog up drain field components, leading to early system failure.

Using a garbage disposal when the system was not designed for it- In addition to sending lots of extra water into the septic tank, food waste does not settle or degrade well in the tank and will increase the need for more frequent pumping.

Disposing of garbage in the system- Items that should go in the trash like dental floss, feminine hygiene products, condoms, diapers, cotton swabs, cigarette butts, coffee grounds, cooking fats, bones, cat litter, and paper towels won't degrade in the tank and will increase the need for more frequent pumping. Trash can also clog inlets, outlets, and drain field components.

Overuse of chemicals- Harsh cleaning chemicals and other household chemicals can kill the bacteria in your septic tank.

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What are some signs of a failing system?

Some signs of a failing septic system are foul odors inside or outside your house, gurgling sounds in the plumbing, sewage on the ground or soft, spongy spots in your drain field, and/or sewage backing up into your house. By the time you see these symptoms the damage may already be done, which is why regular inspections and pumping are so important.

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Who do I contact if I'm having a problem with my system?

To have your system assessed, contact a certified septic tank pumping company, operation and maintenance specialist, installations company or designer/engineer. Once the problem has been identified, hire the appropriate professional to fix the problem. If your system needs to be relocated of fixed, you will need to contact the Garfield County Health Districts Environmental Health Specialist for a site visit and permit.

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Solid Waste

Garfield County investigates solid waste complaints within the county. Please call with any questions or concerns.

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Animal Transmitted Diseases

Animal Bites

Animal Bites in Washington: A Quick History

In Washington State, the chance of getting rabies from a cat or dog bite is very low. However, if a bat or other wild animal bites you, the chance is slightly higher. The last case of rabies found in dogs in Washington State was in 1987 and the last case of rabies in cats was in 2002. Bats are the main carrier of rabies in Washington State; approximately ten-percent of all bats in Washington carry rabies.

Rabies Symptoms

Rabies symptoms in animals include the following:

  • Behavior change
  • Excessive drooling or sometimes foaming in the mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Loss of coordination or paralysis
  • Drooping of the lower jaw
  • Unusually aggressive or vicious behavior or unusual lethargy

If your animal has bitten a human or other animal and displays these symptoms, immediately contact the health district at (509) 843-3412 during business hours or the sheriff's office at (509) 843-3494 if it is after hours.

So You've Been Bitten. What Next?

Step 1. See Your Health Care Provider

It is important to see your health care provider after being bitten by any animal for two reasons. First, you need to keep the wound from getting infected by having it properly cleaned and dressed by your health care provider. Second, you need to make sure that your tetanus shot is up-to-date. This is another way to prevent infection. If you were born in the United States, you likely had these shots when you were young; however, as an adult, you need a booster shot every 10 years.

Step 2. Contact the Health District

The Animal Bite Report is the MOST IMPORTANT piece of information that you can provide to local public health officials when an animal bites you. Without an Animal Bite Report, the Health District has no way to contact the owner of the animal or conduct an investigation. It is important that you fill this form out as completely as possible. If you don't know the owner, please provide where the bite occurred and as complete a description of the animal as possible. If you believe the animal was a stray, the Health District can put you in touch with animal control so that they may search for the animal.

What Do We Do With the Animals?

Many people are afraid to tell anyone that their pet bit them because they don't want anything to happen to the animal. Don't worry... the standard procedure when a dog or cat bites is to quarantine the animal for ten days.

The word quarantine means to keep in a contained location in order to watch for signs of disease. In the case of an animal that bites a person, we are watching for signs of rabies. The main requirement is that it stays away from all humans and animals except for its primary caretaker for TEN DAYS. If the animal were not quarantined and developed rabies, we may not diagnose the rabies soon enough to get the victim medical care. Once rabies symptoms develop in humans, the disease is potentially fatal if not treated.

In the rare case that an animal dies during the quarantine period, we will test the animal to rule out that rabies as the cause of death.

For a list of Animal Transmitted Diseases click here

Click here for more information on Zoonotic Disease Control.

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