What is Environmental Health? Public Health – Part II

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By Scott Lenhart, DirectorPamlico County Health Dept.

BAYBORO – Environmental Health is just one Division within Public Health. So, what does environmental health mean to you? Many automatically think restaurant inspections or septic tanks. According to the NC Environmental Health Division website, the mission of the Environmental Health Section  is to “safeguard life, promote human health and protect the environment through the practice of modern environmental health science, the use of technology, rules, public education and above all, dedication to the public trust”.

The NC Environmental Health Section is comprised of the agencies which fall under the Food Protection and Facilities Branch, the Children’s Environmental Health Branch, Centralized Internship Training and Authorization and the On-Site Water Protection Branch.

Pamlico County Environmental Health is comprised of two qualified Environmental Health SpecialistS and one administrative assistant.  So, let’s meet our staff: the Environmental Health Supervisor is Tammy Rodríguez with 13 years of experience.  She has a Bachelor’s degree in Management and Organizational Development and two master degrees; one in Business Administration Specializing in Healthcare Administration, and Public Health.  She is authorized by the state in the following programs:


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  • On-site Wastewater
  • Food, Lodging and Institutions
  • Child-Care & School Sanitation
  • Migrant Housing
  • Public Swimming Pools
  • Private Wells
  • Tattoos

Tammy holds a North Carolina Water Pollution Control System Operators Certification as well as a North Carolina Pesticide Certification for Public Operator.  She has been an officer for the North Carolina Public Health Association/Eastern District for the Environmental Health Section, and North Carolina Public Health Association/Northeastern District for the Environmental Health Section.  In 2006 Tammy won North Carolina’s Rookie Environmental Health Specialist of the Year.  She is currently appointed to the North Carolina Variance Committee by the Environmental Health Section Chief Larry Michael.     

Next: Melanie Campen with 14 years of experience in Environmental Health and holds a Bachelor Degree in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Geology from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington and Master Degree in Environmental Policy and Management from the American Public University.   She is authorized by the state in the following programs:

  •  On-Site Wastewater
  • Food, Lodging and Institutions
  • Child-Care & School Sanitation
  • Migrant Housing
  • Public Swimming Pools
  • Private Wells

Melanie holds a North Carolina Water Pollution Control System Operators Certification as well as a North Carolina Pesticide Certification for Public Operator.  She has been an officer for the North Carolina Public Health Association/Eastern District for the Environmental Health Section and has currently been re-appointed by Governor Roy Cooper to serve as a member of the North Carolina State Board of Registered Environmental Health Specialist Examiners. 

Also, there is a very important person who assists Tammy and Melanie with all of this work —  Stormy Meadows!  She is the Administrative Assistant.  This individual must also understand the rules and regulations and is there to assist our customers.  Pamlico County Environmental Health Section provides services in the following programs:

  • On-site wastewater, which includes the oversite of the installation of septic systems
  • Private drinking wells, which includes the inspection and testing of private drinking wells
  • Food and lodging inspections:  All food establishments, meat markets, food stands, school cafeterias, assisted living facilities, hospitals, lodging, resident camps, and bed and breakfast establishments. 
  • School buildings and daycares inspections:  This includes the inspection of the whole facility not just the food service.
  • Swimming pool inspections, which also includes hot tubs and spas.
  • Mosquito control
  • Rabies Clinic
  • Lead Services
  • Public Health Emergency Preparedness
  • Assist in food borne illnesses or disease outbreaks investigations

Other services offered includes tattoo parlor inspections, review of restaurant plans, review of swimming pool plans, daycare plans, and investigation of environmental health complaints (ex. foodborne illness, or sewage surfacing).

All Environmental Health Specialists go through a very rigorous training when they are first employed with a local health department.  This training is called Centralize Intern Training, also known as CIT, which is now 5 weeks long.  After CIT Training, the Environmental Health Specialist can now sit for the Registered Environmental Health Specialist exam (national exam), which tests their overall knowledge in public health, environmental health sciences and practices, rules and regulations.  Individuals must also sit through an oral review board and do a written essay for the board.  Individuals have two years to obtain this certification. 

After CIT training, individuals must go through field work meeting specific requirements to be authorized. After meeting these requirements, the environmental health specialist must take a written exam specific to the area they are getting authorized in, and in some cases oral boards are also given, plus the candidate must complete or demonstrate their work in the field to meet all requirements to get authorized in their specific areas of expertise.  In a large county, this could take a short time or in smaller counties it could take months. 

All individuals employed by a county health department must be reauthorized if they decide to be employed by another county.  Authorizations do not automatically follow the individual into another county health departments.  The individual must submit paperwork to the NC Environmental Health Section which reauthorization will be determined by Regional Consultants and the Regional Supervisor for specific areas.  In many counties throughout the state, not all environmental health specialists are authorized in all areas, however,  the Pamlico County staffers (due to the county’s small, rural population) are authorized in most areas!

If you have questions or concerns about your septic systems, wells, restaurant inspections or other areas mentioned in this article please contact our Environmental Health Section at 252-745-5634 or visit our website at www.pamlicocounty.org/environmental-health.aspx where you can get information about Environmental Health Fee Schedule, On-Site Wastewater Application, a list of our Septic System Installers, Authorization to Construct Septic System Form, Food and Lodging Rules (DEHNR Website), and Rabies Clinic Schedule. In addition, you can also go to the following website to help answer some of your questions concerning environmental health issues at ehs.ncpublichealth.com/rules.htm

Next weeks’ article will cover specific types of septic systems normally found or used in Pamlico County.  If you have any questions,  please fill free to call the health department or environmental health. 


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