- Environmental Health
SJBPH's Environmental Health team protects the health of the public and the environment by:
- Licensing and inspecting retail food establishments to prevent the spread of foodborne illness
- Inspecting schools and licensed child care facilities to ensure healthy surroundings for our youngsters
- Regulating, permitting and inspecting septic systems to protect water quality in our rivers and aquifers
- Operating a laboratory offering drinking water and wastewater testing for bacteria
- Providing radon education and free radon test kits so residents can understand their level of risk
Appointments & Concerns
Need an appointment with an Environmental Health Specialist or have a related concern? Contact us via email.
Consumer Protection Services
The Environmental Health program is responsible for the inspection of all restaurants and retail markets in La Plata, Archuleta, and San Juan Counties.
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.
Tattoos and piercings should be done by professionals. Choose an artist who is experienced and willing to answer any and all questions prior to your appointment.
Talk to your artist about what to expect after getting a tattoo or piercing. Although some swelling around the tattoo or piercing is normal, you should talk to your tattoo or piercing professional and to your healthcare provider if you have any of the following signs of infection:
- Thick yellow or green discharge coming from the area
- Continued oozing or bleeding
- Red streaks or a hot sensation moving away from the area
- Pain that continues or gets worse
- Any unusual pain or swelling
Exposure to Pathogens
Tattoo artists and piercers are at risk of coming in contact with their client's blood. This means artists may also be exposed to a bloodborne pathogen, such as hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus or Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). These viruses can be dangerous. For more information on protecting yourself, visit the CDPHE webpage on body art.
Air & Water Quality Programs
SJBPH's Environmental Health program is the regulatory authority for on-site wastewater treatment system 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 EColi bacteria.
SJBPH provides surveillance of groundwater and surface water conditions in Archuleta, La Plata, and San Juan Counties. Drinking water testing is available through the SJBPH water lab (click the "Water Lab" tab above to learn more).
Healthy swimming behaviors are important in preventing illness. Outbreaks of recreational water illnesses continue to occur in the U.S. each year. Sixty-two % of these outbreaks are related to the chlorine-resistant pathogen Cryptosporidium, which is introduced into the pool by swimmers who are ill with diarrhea. Cryptosporidium can be spread by swallowing contaminated recreational water, by putting something in your mouth or swallowing something (such as food) that has come in contact the germ, or by swallowing Cryptosporidium picked up from surfaces (such as lounge chairs, picnic tables, bathroom fixtures, changing tables) contaminated with feces from an infected person. Swallowing even a small amount of pool water that has been contaminated with the pathogen can make you sick. Although Cryptosporidium can infect all people, young children, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems are at risk for more serious disease.
San Juan Basin Public Health relies on a complaint-based system to monitor the public aquatic facility inspections in La Plata and Archuleta counties. Contact your healthcare provider if you suspect you have Cryptosporidium. Anyone with diarrheal illness should refrain from swimming and if diagnosed with Cryptosporidium, wait at least two weeks after symptoms have resolved to swim.
Promote Healthy Swimming
Specific actions you can take to promote healthy swimming include:
- Do not swim when you have diarrhea.
- Do not swallow pool water or get pool water in your mouth.
- Shower before swimming (children too!).
- Wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers.
- Take children on bathroom breaks or change diapers often.
- Change children's diapers in a bathroom, not at poolside.
Crypto outbreaks underscore the continuing need to educate people about recreational water illness prevention to ensure a healthy swimming experience. For more information visit the Centers for Disease Control Healthy Swimming/Recreational Water webpage or download the CDC Healthy Swimming brochure (PDF).
Current Air Quality Conditions, Forecasts & Advisories
AirNow and AirNow for Smoke, published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), are the best resources for current air quality data and forecasting. Air quality in Colorado is regulated by the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division (APCD). APCD publishes official Air Quality Advisories and a Colorado Smoke Outlook.
About Air Pollution
Pollutants of concern that are monitored in southwest Colorado include particulate pollution, also known as particulate matter (PM), ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. Although all counties in southwest Colorado are currently listed as "in attainment" of Clean Air Act standards for these pollutants, they can still be elevated during short-term weather and pollution events like wildfires. For more information about these pollutants and others, visit the links on the EPA's page on Air Quality Index and Your Health.
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.
Healthy Housing Programs
Radon is a naturally occurring invisible, odorless gas that comes from the natural radioactive breakdown of uranium in soil, rocks, and water. Radon exposure is the nation's second-leading cause of lung cancer and the leading cause of lung cancer in people who have never smoked. Due to the geology of southwest Colorado, homes in this area have higher levels of radon than the national average. SJBPH addresses this elevated risk by providing radon education workshops in the winter, when radon levels are highest, and providing free testing kits.
Colorado laws and regulations do not allow local public health agencies, including SJBPH, to intervene in private homes or rental properties in regard to mold. However, Colorado law does require in most cases that landlords maintain rental properties in a habitable condition. Refer to this guide from Colorado Housing Connects for more information and sample letters to a landlord. View additional resources from Colorado Legal Services.
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.
Under Colorado law, San Juan Basin Public Health does not have authority to intervene in tenant-landlord disputes, even if caused by a health-related issue. However, Colorado's Implied Warranty of Habitability Law does require that landlords offer rental property in a condition fit for human habitation. This law is enforced by actions taken by tenants, directly to their landlords and then through the court system if necessary.
The law covers conditions that affect whether a unit is habitable and situations that interfere with a renter's life, health, or safety and were not caused by the renter, including:
- Mold (click our mold tab for specific information on mold and your health)
- Roof and exterior walls that leak
- Broken windows and exterior doors that have broken locks
- Lack of hot and cold running water
- Lack of proper sewage disposal
- Electrical lighting and wiring in poor order
- Plumbing, gas, and heating facilities in poor order
- Infestation of bugs, pests, and rodents
- Interior floors, stairways, and railings in poor condition
- Common areas (in control of the landlord) that are not kept reasonably clean
- Certain broken appliances, if they are present as part of a written rental agreement
If you believe your landlord may be in violation of the warranty of habitability law due to one of the above problems, consult this Handbook from Colorado Housing Connects (PDF) for more information and sample notification letters to your landlord in both English and Spanish. Additional information is available from Colorado Legal Services here.
You are welcome to report an official complaint to San Juan Basin Public Health, for the record, by emailing us, but SJBPH does not have the authority to intervene in landlord-tenant disputes and will take no action beyond providing you health-related information and referring you to housing resources and information unless your complaint is related to a failing on-site wastewater treatment system (OWTS) regulated by SJBPH. View the septic systems tab for more information.
Mobile home parks in Colorado are regulated by the Mobile Home Park Oversight Program (MHPOP) at the Colorado Division of Housing. MHPOP provides resources to mobile homeowners and park owners and has a dispute resolution program for alleged violations of the Mobile Home Park Act. The Act requires, among other things:
- Landlords must maintain water and sewer lines as far as the utility pedestal or pad space for each mobile home
- Landlords must ensure that running water and reasonable amounts of water are provided to each utility pedestal or pad space at all times, with certain exceptions
- Landlords must pay the cost of damage to mobile homes that ensues from their failure to maintain water or sewer lines as required by the Act
- Landlords must provide alternative sources of water and/or portable toilets in the event of a water or sewer outage, with certain exceptions
- Landlords must maintain and keep accessible common areas and roads, with certain exceptions
- Landlords must prevent the accumulation of standing water and the detrimental effects of moving water that could damage utility pedestals, pad spaces, and mobile homes, with certain exceptions.
- If management charges mobile home owners individually for water service, the management must disclose how they calculate the amount owed by each mobile home owner, among other disclosures, and must use a calculation method that is equitable and reasonable
- Management may not retaliate against mobile homeowners for filing a complaint, joining a tenants' association, or certain other actions
- Rental agreements for mobile home spaces or lots must be in writing, and may not provide for tenant's rights under the Act to be waived
- Rules and regulations adopted by the management must be in writing
- Mobile home park owners must notify all mobile home owners, in advance, of their intent to change the land use (i.e. close the park) or sell the park to a new owner
SJBPH has minimal authorities under the Mobile Home Park Act. Suspected violations of the Act and disputes between landlords and tenants in a mobile home park should be reported to MHPOP.