Environmental Health FAQ

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Our Location: 1221 Fulton Street, 3rd Floor
PO Box 11867, Fresno CA 93775-1867
Phone: (559) 600-3357 Fax: (559) 600-7629
Email: EnvironmentalHealth@co.fresno.ca.us

Hours of Operation:
Monday - Friday 8:00am - 5:00pm
(Closed 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm)

If an emergency occurs, please call 9-1-1 or your local Fire/Police Agency.

The Emergency Response Team can be reached during business hours at (559) 600-3271 or after hours through the Fresno Sheriff's Office at (559) 600-3111.

(An emergency is a situation that threatens human life, the environment or property and demands immediate attention.)

What does Environmental Health do?

We perform a wide variety of public health services. Our major program areas involve regulating and permitting retail food facilities, hazardous materials facilities, water well construction, substandard rental housing (in unincorporated county areas), public swimming pools, and solid waste sites. We respond to complaints from the public about unsanitary or unhealthful public health conditions, or complaints about such conditions at any facility regulated by us, such as restaurants, markets, swimming pools, etc. For a complete listing of our programs and further information, please visit our homepage: Environmental Health Division.

What kind of complaints do you respond to?

We respond to a variety of complaints from the public about unsanitary or unhealthful public health conditions, foodborne illnesses, animal bites, illegal solid waste dumping, and hazardous wastes or hazardous materials spills. We also respond to complaints about unsanitary or unhealthful conditions at any facility regulated by us, such as restaurants, markets, public swimming pools, hazardous materials facilities, solid waste sites, etc.

Please note that we may refer you to another agency if your complaint is outside of our jurisdiction. In some cases, for example housing, labor camps, and water wells, the incorporated cities in the county (City of Fresno, City of Selma, etc.) have jurisdiction and the responsibility to enforce applicable laws and regulations.

Is my complaint kept confidential?

All complaints received by us are kept strictly confidential. When you file a complaint, we will ask you for personal information such as your name, address, and telephone number. This information is for our use only and is not provided to the party you are complaining about. (We must, of course, supply our records if they are subpoenaed by a court.) We use this information to contact you for additional information or to answer questions we might have, and to keep you informed of our investigation and results.

How do I file a complaint?

You can telephone us, write us, fax us, email us, or come to our office in person. Please refer to the top of this page for specific contact information. If you send us a complaint, please include your name, address, telephone number, and the location and nature of the complaint.

How long does it take to resolve a complaint?

The time that it takes to resolve a complaint depends on the nature of the complaint. Most complaints are resolved within a relatively short period of time, but due to the many different factors that may be involved in any particular complaint, there is no set time period. Our policy is to investigate complaints within two business days. We investigate foodborne illness complaints on the next business day.

I think I may need a permit from you to operate my business. What should I do?

You need to contact our office at (559) 600-3357. We have staff available during the day, from 8:00 am to 12:00 noon, and 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm, to help answer your questions.

What are your fees?

You can view our current fees here: Fee Schedule.

What type of animal bites should be reported?

Any animal bite that breaks the skin should be reported to us. Please go to our Rabies and Animal Control page for more information.

If my animal has bitten a person or another animal, but has all its shots, do I still have to report the bite?

Yes.

How do I interpret my water well test results?

You should first discuss anything about the results that you do not understand with the laboratory that analyzed the water sample(s) and provided the results to you. (If you have been working with us on your well and our Public Health Laboratory analyzed your water samples, you should contact us directly.) If you still have questions, you can call us at (559) 600-3357 and ask to speak with the Water Specialist of the Day.

What types of water wells do you inspect?

We issue well construction permits to licensed well drillers for the construction of new water wells, including private domestic wells, agricultural wells, and public wells, and for the reconstruction (e.g. deepening) of existing water wells. We do not routinely inspect existing water wells, nor is any permit to operate a private water well required. There are requirements for public water wells, but these are regulated as part of a public water system.

Please note that we only issue water well construction permits for wells located in the unincorporated areas of the county. Most incorporated cities (City of Fresno, City of Selma, etc.) do not allow private water wells within their jurisdiction. If you live in one of the cities and want to construct a water well, you will need to contact the city regarding their requirements.

How is a water well disinfected?

We have a handout available on our website: Well Disinfection Procedures

Do I need a permit to drain my swimming pool?

We do not issue permits to drain swimming pools, however, some of the incorporated cities (City of Fresno, City of Selma, etc.) may have requirements. If you live in one of the cities and want to drain a swimming pool, you should contact the city regarding their requirements.

What types of swimming pools do you inspect?

We inspect and permit Public Swimming Pools, which include apartments, hotels, schools, organized camps, etc. We do not inspect or permit "private pools maintained by an individual for the use of family and friends..." However, we do respond to complaints regarding unmaintained, "green" pools, because of the public health and safety hazard which may exist.

How do I dispose of household hazardous waste?

Reduce by purchasing only the amount you need.

Reuse the products by donating unused portions to friends or community organizations.

Recycle leftover household hazardous products that are recyclable and dispose of the others safely by participating in the Household Hazardous Waste Drop-off Event.

Call the County of Fresno, Department of Public Works and Planning, Resources Division at (559) 600-4249 for the date of the next HHW Drop-off Event.

Contact Environmental Health at (559) 600-3271 for additional information or the County of Fresno, Department of Public Works and Planning, Resources Division at (559) 600-4249 for other Household Hazardous Waste collection programs.

Many products found in your home are potentially hazardous substances. Because of their chemical nature, they can poison, corrode, explode, or ignite easily when handled improperly. When discarded, they are considered household hazardous waste. Since they may threaten human health or the environment when inappropriately disposed of, household hazardous wastes are not exempt from California hazardous waste laws. It is illegal to dispose of household hazardous waste in the trash, down storm drains, or onto the ground.

Why Are They Hazardous?

Household hazardous wastes are considered hazardous because they fit into one or more of the following categories:

  • Toxic: Poisonous or lethal when ingested, touched, or inhaled-even in small quantities.
  • Flammable: Ignites easily.
  • Corrosive: Eats away materials and living tissue by chemical action.
  • Reactive: Creates an explosion or produces deadly vapors (e.g., bleach mixed with ammonia-based cleaners).

Before buying a product, read the label. Signal words can serve as a guide to the purchases you make. With pesticides, Danger means highly toxic, Warning means moderately toxic, and Caution means slightly toxic. With household products, Poison means highly toxic, Danger means extremely flammable or corrosive or highly toxic, Warning or Caution means less toxic.

How Do I Avoid Accidents?

Never leave household hazardous products or wastes within reach of children or pets. When possible, buy products with less harmful ingredients (read the labels). When using a product, read and follow the label directions, never mix it with other products, and use it up entirely. Do not dispose of household hazardous wastes in the trash, on the ground, or in storm or sewer drains. Do not remove product labels, and do not remove products from their original containers.

How do I report a hazardous materials spill?

In the event of a hazardous material release, or a threatened release, immediately notify the appropriate authorities. This is to be done as soon as possible without delaying the immediate control of the release or threatened release, or delaying emergency medical procedures.

Make the following notifications:

  • First call 9-1-1 Local Emergency Response (e.g., Police, fire, and medical).
  • Then call Environmental Health at (559) 600-3271 during business hours, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. After business hours or on weekends use the Sheriff's Department Dispatch number (559) 600-3111 to contact Environmental Health.
  • Then call the Governor's Office of Emergency Services (OES) Warning Center at (800) 852-7550.
Notification shall include the following information:
  • Identity of the caller (including a phone number for more information),
  • Location, date, time and duration of the spill or release,
  • Substance and quantity involved,
  • Chemical name (if known, it should be reported if the chemical is extremely hazardous),
  • Proper precautions to take,
  • Known or anticipated health risks,
  • Medium or media (soil, water or air) impacted by the release, and
  • Description of what happened.

Immediate reporting IS NOT required if there is a reasonable belief that the release poses no significant present or potential hazard to human health and safety, property, or the environment. Be extremely cautious about reaching this conclusion in the absence of consultation with the proper authorities. If you need assistance in evaluating the significance of a release, you may contact a member of the Fresno County Emergency Response Team at (559) 600-3271 during regular office hours or (559) 600-3111 after office hours.

Small Spills

In the event of a small spill, call Environmental Health at (559) 600-3271 during business hours, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. After working hours or on weekends use the Sheriff's Department Dispatch number (559) 600-3111 to contact Environmental Health.

How do I review a Hazardous Materials file?

Individuals intending to review facility files shall follow these steps:

Step 1

Determine if a file exists for the facility by reviewing the resource list. To ensure that the list is not being used when you arrive, please call our office at (559) 600-3271 for an appointment.

The resource list includes:

  • Hazardous Materials Business Plan Sites (Sites that have hazardous materials business plans as required by California Health and Safety Code, Chapter 6.95.)
  • Underground Storage Tank Sites
  • Miscellaneous Site Files (Sites within the County of Fresno where other agencies have supplied Environmental Health with information [e.g., U.S. EPA, Cal-EPA, and Fresno County Agencies])

Issue Alerts-Proposition 65 Notifications (These binders contain hazardous material releases by site address and are grouped alphabetically by street name. All leaks, spills, and accidental releases known to Environmental Health are reported by using the Issue Alert Form.)

Step 2

Submit a "Request for Public Information" form provided by clerical staff. This form requires your name; nature of request, site address and type of filed requested. Complete a separate form for each file requested.

Step 3

Our office will notify you when the files are available for inspection. Please Note: Environmental Health has made the resource list, issue alerts, and files available for use by the public. Keep in mind that many other people use this information. Therefore:

  • The resource list or files cannot be removed from the work area.
  • Hard copies of the resource list will not be provided as the list is continually being updated.
  • Copies of the resource list may be provided upon request by electronic mail or diskette.
  • Should your visit last more than one (1) hour, notify the clerical personnel to see if additional time is available.
  • Your cooperation in this process will ensure that this information remains accurate, complete, and easily accessible.

How can I dispose of waste tires?

The easiest way to dispose of waste tires is to have the store where you purchase new tires dispose of the old tires. The small amount of expense that you pay to the dealership for disposal is well worth the inconvenience and expense of having a registered waste tire hauler, waste tire facility or landfill accept the tires for disposal.

Contact Environmental Health at (559) 600-3271 for additional information. You may also contact the County of Fresno, Department of Public Works and Planning, Resources Division at (559) 600-4259 for a copy of Turning It Around, A Directory of Recyclers in Fresno County. This directory has a listing of waste tire facilities.

How do I dispose of batteries?

Several types of batteries are used in our society, with disposal requirements varying for each kind. Because many of them contain harmful chemicals, they must be disposed of properly.

  • Alkaline and heavy-duty (carbon-zinc) batteries are "dry-cells", and unfortunately cannot currently be recycled in this country.
  • Rechargeable (nickel-cadmium, or Ni-Cad) batteries can be recycled. Cadmium is a toxic metal and recycling is a must.
  • Computer batteries, generally for laptops, and cell phone batteries are usually nickel-metal hydride or lithium-ion types. Again, these batteries contain toxic metals, and it is important to recycle them.
  • Button Cell batteries, the small round type, contain a large percentage of heavy metals as well, and are also important to recycle. Many shops that replace these batteries in watches, hearing aids, etc. will accept button cells for recycling. Be sure to ask them if they do so.
  • Lead-acid batteries, primarily automotive batteries (but also those used in industrial equipment and alarms), must be recycled because of their toxic nature and the value of the contained lead. Over 95% of all auto batteries are recycled, generally by returning them to a battery retailer who is connected to the collection/recycling system.

Additionally, many local businesses accept batteries for recycling. Contact the County of Fresno, Department of Public Works and Planning, Resources Division at (559) 600-4259 for a copy of Turning It Around, A Directory of Recyclers in Fresno County. This directory has a listing of businesses that have battery-recycling services.

You may also dispose of batteries from a household by taking them to the next Household Hazardous Waste Drop-off Event. Call the County of Fresno, Department of Public Works and Planning, Resources Division at (559) 600-4259 for the date of the next HHW Drop-off Event.

What should I do if I have a mercury spill?

Keep all people and pets away from the spill area. To minimize the amount of mercury that turns into vapor, turn off any heaters and ventilate the area by opening windows and doors. Do not handle the mercury. Even the smallest amount of mercury needs to be treated as a serious issue, especially if the area where the spill occurred is open to the public and children. For information regarding mercury spills or cleanup, call Environmental Health at (559) 600-3271 or after hours contact the Sheriff's Department Dispatch number at (559) 600-3111.

Where do I dispose of needles or "sharps"?

Changes in the California Health and Safety Code mean that as of September 1, 2008, home-generated sharps waste can no longer be thrown in the trash or recycling containers and requires that all sharps be transported to a collection center in an approved sharps container. Home-generated sharps waste is defined as disposable hypodermic needles, pen needles, intravenous needles, syringes, lancets, and other devices that are used to penetrate the skin for the delivery of medications or a blood test and are derived from a household, including a multifamily residence.

The law requires home-generated sharps waste to be transported only in a sharps or other approved containers and forbids the disposal of sharps into containers used for the collection of solid waste (i.e. household trash), construction and demolition debris, green waste, or other recyclable materials.

The County of Fresno in cooperation with the fifteen incorporated cities in Fresno County has established a Household Hazardous Waste program. Home-generated sharps waste may be taken for proper disposal to a Household Hazardous Waste collection facility. For information on how to participate in the next Household Hazardous Waste drop-off event, call the County of Fresno, Department of Public Works and Planning, Resources Division at (559) 600-4259.

This procedure is approved for individual household generated medical waste only.

Medical waste generated by any other source is covered by the Medical Waste Management Act. Please contact the State of California, Department of Health Services, Medical Waste Management Program at (916) 449-5671 for further information.

For Additional Information on this Subject:

Household Hazardous Waste, Sharps Waste
California Integrated Waste Management Board

Where do I obtain "sharps containers"?

"Sharps containers" may be purchased at pharmacies and drug stores.

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