Environmental Health Division

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Winter Hazard Awareness Week
~November 10-14, 2014~

When we think about winter hazards, we generally think about severe weather and getting stranded in a snow storm. What we also need to keep in mind are other hazards that come along with winter such as:
  • protecting yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning,
  • using snow shoveling tips to avoid a heart attack or back injury,
  • protecting your home from fire hazards—particularly during the holidays, and
  • using winter car safety tips.
Stay safe this winter and all year long—start by finding out more about winter hazards.

National Radiation Protection Professionals Week
~November 2-8, 2014~

Radiation protection professionals provide leadership in protecting the public from the hazards of radiation. These dedicated individuals work diligently to ensure radiation and radioactive materials are used safely and beneficially in thousands of different ways. Radiation protection professionals are a vital safety net; they help to make sure medical uses of radiation are safe, industrial uses and products are safe, and our homes and our country are safe. The week long observance is dedicated in recognizing radiation protection professionals’ contributions to public safety.

Microbial Risk Assessment Project

Sampling has begun on a two year microbial risk assessment project sponsored by the MDH Health Risk Assessment Unit in partnership with the University of Minnesota. Sampling for a storm water collection system for irrigation is starting, and the University will also be studying a rainwater collection system for flushing toilets. The samples will be analyzed to characterize the microbial population in the water of the systems over time and under varying weather conditions, with a particular interest in human pathogen content. The goal is to provide a health risk context for water reuse in Minnesota.

National Conference of the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators

Staff of the Section of Drinking Water Protection recently delivered presentations at the national conference of the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators.  Lih-in Rezania gave a presentation titled, “A Second Look at Viruses in Minnesota Groundwater,” on the project investigating occurrence of viruses in groundwater supplies that may be used for drinking water.  Steve Robertson gave a presentation titled, “Source Water Protection Implementation Through Collaboration – Examples from Minnesota,” on the development of innovative partnerships and funding to help protect drinking water sources.  They were well received.

Well Management Milestone

The backlog of well records to be entered into the County Well Index (CWI) has been eliminated. Since this concerted effort began in July 2011, Nancy Kadrlik, Mary Ann Miller, Juanita Hinrichsen, Mollie Moore and Andrea Strauch have entered nearly 53,000 well logs eliminating the backlog that piled up over the years. The information in CWI is invaluable to the groundwater community for managing, conserving and protecting our primary drinking water source for the state groundwater. As we continue with the efforts to update and enhance CWI, the entry process will be altered so that a new backlog does not arise. Thanks to all the staff who helped in this monumental effort.

Healthy Housing Grants

The Lead and Healthy Homes program has awarded Healthy Housing Grants, authorized by MS144.9513 in the most recent legislative session, to perform activities related to housing-based health threats; including implementing primary prevention programs, providing training and technical assistance, identifying and mitigating hazards in high-risk housing, and establishing local or regional collaborative partnerships. The grants are designed to result in healthier housing, lower health care costs, improved quality of life, and increased social capital in high risk areas and populations.

A housing-based health threat is defined in statute as, “a chemical, biologic, or physical agent in the immediate housing environment, including toxic lead, mold, radon, and indoor allergens and contaminants in carpets, which constitutes a potential or actual hazard to human health at acute or chronic exposure levels.” Target populations are children (<6 years old), low income, minority, and elderly populations, and geographic risk areas (e.g. radon).  Funding totaling $720,000 will be awarded over a three-year project period:

    • Awards of $120,000 each ($40,000 per year for three years) will go to Hennepin County, Meeker/McLeod/Sibley, Southwest Health and Human Services, and St. Paul/Ramsey County.
    • Awards of $60,000 each ($20,000 per year for three years) will go to the Sustainable Resources Center, Polk/Norman/Mahnomen, and Rice County.
    • In addition, one mini-grant award of $60,000 ($20,000 per year for three years) was given to the Alliance for Healthy Homes and Communities to provide five “mini-grants” per year to local organizations.

    Dr. Paul Anderson, Fellow at Mayo Clinic

    Dr. Anderson spent the month of August with the Health Impact Assessment (HIA) and MN Climate & Health Program learning about MDH’s progressive work in these areas. Dr. Anderson worked with staff on ways to incorporate health into the environmental review process and will be presenting a brown-bag on his extensive HIA experience reviewing large natural resource development projects in Alaska.  Dr. Anderson’s presentation will be on September 22nd at 12 PM in Freeman, B145.

    Food Inspections at the State Fair

    With thermometers in hand, EH staff conducted over 275 food inspections at the State Fair. Emphasis was put on food safety education. Supervisors worked closely with the State Fair Board to verify licensing for vendors and conduct plan reviews prior to the event. In addition to inspecting food stands, MDH licensed and inspected the camping areas and the youth camps on the fairgrounds. The FPLS inspectors behind the scenes ensure safe food at the State Fair.

    State Fair EcoExperience

    The Environmental Health (EH) Division once again participated in the water resource display at the State Fair EcoExperience, bringing back last years’ new drinking water display and posters from this year’s H20 for Life contest.  This is a collaboration with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the EH Sections of Drinking Water Protection, Well Management, and Environmental Surveillance and Assessment.  Thirty-eight volunteers from MDH took part in this, providing lots of information to Fairgoers that included some very popular new information pieces developed by the sections.  The EH Division Team that pulled all this together includes Norm Mofjeld, Leslie Winter, Katie Nyquist, Sue Lang, and Nancy Laplante.  Thanks to the Team and all the volunteers for all their efforts!

    Sherrie Flaherty, New Chair-elect for the OAS Board

    Radioactive Materials Supervisor, Sherrie Flaherty was elected to a three-year term to service on the Organization of Agreement States (OAS) Board as the chair-elect. The OAS provides a mechanism for Agreement States and The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to work together on regulatory issues associated with radiation safety across the nation.

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Updated Monday, November 10, 2014 at 07:58AM