SJBPH’s Environmental Health (EH) team protects the health of the public and the environment. In Archuleta, La Plata, and San Juan Counties, EH:
- licenses and inspects retail food vendors to prevent the spread of food-borne illness
- inspects child care facilities to ensure healthy surroundings for our youngsters
- regulates, permits and inspects septic systems to protect water quality in our rivers and aquifers
- monitors water quality in the Animas River watershed to keep the public safe
- operates a laboratory offering drinking water and wastewater testing for bacteria
Information on our programs and on several other environmental health concerns can be found in the tabs below.
Environmental Health Services
EH Main Line | 970 335 2052
Air quality in Colorado is monitored and regulated by the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division (APCD). APCD publishes monitoring data on their website, and publishes a current Colorado Smoke Outlook that includes advisories for wildfire smoke.
All persons conducting open burning operations, other than agricultural burning for soil preparation, weed control, or maintenance of ditches and other water structures, must first obtain an open burning permit from the State of Colorado and inform the local fire department. The state open burn permit application may be found here. Piles to be burnt must be small enough to be out cold by sunset, or 8 cubic feet.
Campfires, non-commercial cooking fires, and agricultural burning do not need an open burn permit, but any of these may be restricted by our county governments or fire protection districts. Check with Archuleta, La Plata, or San Juan County for more information on current fire restrictions.
Minimum health and sanitation requirements for operation and maintenance are established and regulated by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and San Juan Basin Public Health.
All local public health agencies are required to prepare and respond to emergencies with a public health or environmental health implication in coordination with local, state and federal agencies and public and private sector partners. SJBPH Emergency Preparedness and Response (EPR) can serve as, or support, the Emergency Support Function 8 (Public Health and Medical Services) lead for the county, region, or jurisdiction.
SJBPH Regional EPR staff serve Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma and San Juan counties and provide support to the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribes.
The Environmental Health program is responsible for the inspection of all restaurants and retail markets in La Plata, Archuleta, and San Juan Counties.
At this time neither the State of Colorado nor San Juan Basin Public Health have any laws or regulations related to minimum habitability standards for private homes or rental properties in regards to mold. Also, there are no regulations, even at the federal level, related to indoor air quality. Since there are no laws or regulations to go by, the SJBPH has no authority in cases of a property or renter/landlord disputes.
In some cases it may be necessary for tenants to utilize the services of a private attorney to resolve housing issues. Colorado Legal Services may be able to help.
Mold Health Effects
Mold (or mildew) is the common name for fungi in the indoor environment, although molds are found everywhere in both the indoor and outdoor environment. The vast majority of the time, they are found in association with decaying organic materials, such as leaves and foods. Molds help break down organic materials so they can be recycled and reused by other living things.
Mold and bacteria can be found practically anywhere on earth. Because mold is everywhere, most building materials already have mold spores on them. This is why when building materials like drywall, wood products, or paper become wet and are not dried within 48 hours, they grow mold. The best line of defense against mold is to limit the amount of time mold has to grow by drying your building materials as soon as possible. The rule of thumb is if you can’t quickly dry materials like drywall, rugs, and wooden sub-floors, you should remove or dispose of them to eliminate mold growth.
For Healthy People
For the majority of healthy people, mold exposure will only cause a mild allergic response, such as cough, runny nose, and eye irritation (hay fever or allergic rhinitis).
For People with Asthma (Heightened Allergic Response) or Other Chronic Lung Disease
Mold exposure can be a significant problem causing an increase in the severity of lung symptoms for people with chronic lung disease.
For People with Impaired Immune Systems
For children younger than two years old, the elderly, those taking long-term steroid drugs, those suffering from HIV, and those who have a compromised immune system, mold exposure can cause life-threatening infections. Special attention should be taken to prevent and remove mold growth around these groups of people.
The Black Mold Myth
Black mold, or Stachybotrys Chartarum, is a greenish-black mold that typically grows on high cellulose and low nitrogen materials like fiberboard, paper, dust, and lint. Black mold needs constant moisture for growth. While black mold was originally reported to cause lung and neurological problems, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now states there is no link between mold and other adverse health effects, such as acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage among infants, memory loss, or lethargy. Black mold should be cleaned and the area repaired.
SJBPH’s Environmental Health (EH) program is the regulatory authority for on-site wastewater treatment system (OWTS) permitting in Archuleta, La Plata, and San Juan counties.
SJBPH’s Water Lab provides water testing for La Plata County residents. Water Bacteriology testing determines the absence or presence of Total Coliform and E.Coli bacteria.
SJBPH’s Surface and Drinking Water program provides surveillance of ground water and surface water conditions in La Plata County and San Juan County.