This week on the ECPH Facebook page we have been highlighting National Farm Safety and Health Week, an annual promotion that focuses attention on a wide range of farm safety and health topics. Daily themes include Tractor Safety and Rural Roadway Safety, Overall Farmer Health, Safety and Health for Youth in Agriculture, Confined Spaces, and Safety and Health for Women in Agriculture.
Our e-update this week takes an in-depth look at Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (OWTS), more commonly known as septic systems. One of the larger programs at ECPH, OWTS permitting and inspections are led by our Environmental Health team. A wealth of information on OWTS, including documents to obtain permits, can be found on the county webpageFor specific OWTS questions, residents can call (303) 621-3144 or email email@example.com.
Healthy Communities News
REMINDER: Community Blood Drive Next Tuesday
ECPH will be hosting a blood drive on Tuesday, September 27, from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm in the Exhibit Building at the county fairgrounds in Kiowa. We are urging eligible donors to help ensure lifesaving blood is available for patients with traumatic injuries and other serious medical needs by donating blood and sharing this opportunity with family and friends in the area.
Of note, O negative red blood cells and AB plasma can be transfused into any patient, regardless of blood type, making donors with these universal blood types an important need. Less than 7 percent of the population has type O negative blood, and only about 4 percent of the population has type AB blood.
To schedule an appointment, call 303-363-2300 or visit donors.vitalant.org and use BLOOD DRIVE CODE 3184276.
ECPH is aware of a series of social media threats circulating against Denver metro area schools. The threats are general in nature and do not target a specific school or district. When a threat is identified, school districts work closely with law enforcement to investigate the threats and determine the source. As a reminder, if you see or hear potentially dangerous behavior or anything that could put students, faculty or staff in any of Elbert County's school districts at risk, please report it to the school or through the anonymous reporting tool, Safe2Tell.
Mental Health Resources
Child Mind Institute has created several videos to help support families with children who are struggling with mental health, behavior, or learning challenges. Topics include anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and more. New videos will be posted weekly on topics including behavior and anxiety to screen timing and parenting challenges.
REMINDER: Sign Up to Receive Emergency Alert Information
In an effort to support public awareness of high-consequence emergencies and the impacts of severe weather within Elbert County, the Office of Emergency Management has teamed up with the Elbert County Communications Authority, local fire departments, and local municipalities to implement CodeRED, an emergency notification system available free to Elbert County residents. The CodeRED system delivers calls, emails and texts for emergency notifications, weather warnings, and other important community updates.
CodeRED uses technology that allows geographic targeting of calls, coupled with a telephone calling system capable of delivering a pre-recorded message directly to homes and businesses at the rate of up to 60,000 calls per hour. The system's main purpose is to notify citizens or groups of citizens in emergency situations, but can deliver non-emergency notifications as well.
CodeRED Weather Warning will deliver severe weather warnings to your telephone and/or cell phone within seconds after being issued by the National Weather Service. You will only get the warning if you physically live in the area that is in the warning. Sign up for CodeRED at www.elbertcounty-co.gov/551/CodeRED. Download the CodeRED mobile app here.
Environmental Health News
Be Septic Smart
ECPH regularly receive calls from homeowners experiencing challenges due to improperly maintained or failing septic systems. ECPH works to provide guidance, resources, and inspections to increase homeowner education on septic systems and promote awareness in caring for them. Proper septic system use and routine care are vital to protecting public health, preserving our highly valued groundwater, and avoiding costly repairs that can result from neglect.
Maintain your septic system. Septic system maintenance isn’t complicated, and it doesn’t need to be expensive. Upkeep comes down to four important elements:
Inspection and pumping.
Proper waste disposal.
Inspect and pump frequently. The average household septic system should be inspected at least every three years by a septic service professional. Household septic tanks are typically pumped every three to five years. Alternative systems with electrical float switches, pumps, or mechanical components need to be inspected more often, generally once a year. A service contract is important since alternative systems have mechanized parts. Four major factors influence the frequency of septic pumping:
Total wastewater generated.
Volume of solids in wastewater.
Septic tank size.
Use water efficiently. Did you know that average indoor water use in a typical single-family home is nearly 70 gallons per individual, per day? And just a single leaky toilet can waste as much as 200 gallons of water per day? All of the water a household sends down its pipes winds up in its septic system. This means that the more water a household conserves, the less water enters the septic system. Efficient water use can not only improve the operation of a septic system, but it can reduce the risk of failure as well. Learn more about simple ways to save water and water-efficient products by visiting EPA’s WaterSense Program at www.epa.gov/watersense.
High-efficiency toilets: Toilet use accounts for 25 to 30 percent of household water use. Most older homes have toilets with 3.5- to 5-gallon reservoirs, while newer, high-efficiency toilets use 1.6 gallons of water or less per flush. Replacing existing toilets with high-efficiency models is an easy way to quickly reduce the amount of household water entering your septic system.
Faucet aerators and high-efficiency showerheads: Faucet aerators help reduce water use as well as the volume of water entering your septic system. High-efficiency showerheads or shower flow restrictors also reduce water use.
Washing machines: Washing small loads of laundry on your washing machine’s large-load cycle wastes water and energy. By selecting the proper load size, you’ll reduce water waste. If you’re unable to select a load size, run only full loads of laundry. Another tip? Try to spread water use via washing machine throughout the week. Doing all household laundry in one day might seem like a time-saver, but it can be harmful to your septic system, as it doesn’t allow your septic tank time to adequately treat waste and could potentially flood your drainfield. Consider purchasing an ENERGY STAR® clothes washer, which uses 35 percent less energy and a whopping 50 percent less water than a standard model. Learn more about ENERGY STAR appliances by visiting www.energystar.gov .
Proper waste disposal: Whether you flush it down the toilet, grind it in the garbage disposal, or pour it down the sink, shower, or bath, everything that goes down your drains ends up in your septic system. And what goes down the drain can have a major impact on how well your septic system works.
Toilets Aren’t Trash Cans! Your septic system is not a trash can. An easy rule of thumb? Don’t flush anything besides human waste and toilet paper. Never flush:
Feminine hygiene products
Household chemicals like gasoline, oil, pesticides, antifreeze, and paint
For a complete list, visit www.water.epa.gov/septicsmart.
Take care at the drain. Your septic system contains a collection of living organisms that digest and treat household waste. Pouring toxins down your drain can kill these organisms and harm your septic system. Whether you’re at the kitchen sink, bathtub, or utility sink:
Avoid chemical drain openers for a clogged drain. Instead, use boiling water or a drain snake.
Never pour cooking oil or grease down the drain!
Never pour oil-based paints, solvents, or large volumes of toxic cleaners down the drain. Even latex paint waste should be minimized.
Eliminate or limit the use of a garbage disposal, which will significantly reduce the amount of fats, grease, and solids that enter your septic tank and ultimately clog its drainfield.
Maintain your drainfield. Your drainfield—a component of your septic system that removes contaminants from the liquid that emerges from your septic tank—is an important part of your septic system. Here are a few things you should do to maintain it:
Never park or drive on your drainfield.
Plant trees the appropriate distance from your drainfield to keep roots from growing into your septic system. A septic service professional can advise you of the proper distance, depending on your septic tank and landscape.
Keep roof drains, sump pumps, and other rainwater drainage systems away from your drainfield area, as excess water slows down or stops the wastewater treatment process.
Common causes of OWTS failure. Pouring household and home improvement chemicals down your drains, flushing garbage down toilets, excessive water use, and failure to provide proper maintenance aren’t the only culprits for septic system failure. Take note of these additional causes of septic failure:
Hot tubs. Hot tubs may be a great way to relax, but when it comes to emptying them, your septic system should avoided. Emptying a hot tub into your septic system stirs the solids in the tank, pushing them into the drainfield, causing it to clog and fail. Drain cooled hot tub water onto turf or landscaped areas far away from your septic tank and drainfield, and in accordance with local regulations. Use the same caution when draining swimming pools.
Water purification and softening systems. Some freshwater purification systems, including water softeners, unnecessarily pump water into septic systems. Such systems can send hundreds of gallons of water to septic tanks, causing agitation of solids and excess flow to drainfields. When researching water purification and softening systems, check with a licensed plumbing professional about alternative routing for such treatment systems.
Garbage disposals. Consider eliminating or limit the use of garbage disposals. While convenient, frequent use of garbage disposals significantly increases the accumulation of sludge and scum in septic tanks, resulting in the need for more frequent pumping.
Improper design or installation. The proper design and installation of a septic system is essential for it to correctly function. A home’s groundwater table, soil composition, and a properly leveled drainfield are just a few factors to ensure a well-functioning septic system. Be sure to do your research when hiring septic professionals.
Failure symptoms: Mind the signs! A foul odor isn’t always the first sign of a malfunctioning septic system. Call a septic professional if you notice any of the following:
Wastewater backing up into household drains.
Bright green, spongy grass on the drainfield, even during dry weather.
Pooling water or muddy soil around your septic system or in your basement.
A strong odor around the septic tank and drainfield.
ECPH encourages residents to mind the signs of a failing system. One call to a septic professional could save you thousands of dollars.
Communicable Diseases Updates
Preparing for Flu Season
Influenza, or flu, is a virus that spreads through close contact with an infected person. The incubation period is commonly 2 days, but ranges from 1 to 4 days. Due to its short incubation period, influenza outbreaks may escalate very quickly, especially in highly susceptible populations. Influenza illness is characterized by the abrupt start of fever, sore throat, headache, myalgia (pain in a muscle or group of muscles), non-productive cough and extreme fatigue with major symptoms lasting an average of 2 to 3 days. Fever usually ranges between 100° and 104°F. Illness typically improves within a week, but cough and malaise may persist for 2 or more weeks. The most common complications of influenza is pneumonia, but may include exacerbation of underlying chronic pulmonary and cardiopulmonary diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, and congestive heart failure.
Cases of influenza in the United States currently remain low, as is typical this time of year. Flu season is just around the corner, however. Given the southern hemisphere’s recent experience with flu, where Australia experienced its most severe flu season in five years, a severe flu season in the U.S. is a distinct possibility. Flu shots will be available at the 365 Health Fair on October 8.
West Nile Virus
As of Monday 9/19, 126 human cases of West Nile virus have been reported to CDPHE and confirmed for the 2022 season. Of those, 79 are neuroinvasive and 82 have been hospitalized. Six WNV-related deaths have been reported so far this season. Eight asymptomatic have been identified through testing of blood donations. Additionally, two raptors (birds of prey) have tested positive for West Nile virus in Larimer County, and six equine cases have been reported out of Adams, Mesa, and Weld counties. CDPHE data on West Nile virus can be accessed here.
ECPH encourages residents get the new Omicron-specific COVID-19 vaccine before Halloween to boost their immunity levels ahead of a potential surge in infections this winter. Ideally, people should get a shot between mid-September and mid-October but no later than the end of October for maximum protection ahead of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Those who recently contracted the coronavirus should wait about 90 days, or three months, before getting the updated vaccine. ECPH offers COVID-19 vaccination appointments on Wednesdays each week. Please call Sara McIntosh at (303) 621-3170 to schedule an appointment.
Elbert County continues to have low volumes and rates of known COVID-19 infections. Since the last update on September 15, there are just 7 cases of COVID-19 infection to report from the following zip codes:
80107: 3 cases
80106, 80138, 80832, and 80835: 1 case each.
All of these cases represent current infections. Test dates for these cases range from September 12 to 21, 2022. Ages for the cases range from 11 to 86 years. A total of 146 tests have been reported over the past two weeks. There are no new hospitalizations to report. There are no new fatalities to report.
As of this morning, our two-week cumulative rate stands at 61.10cases per 100,000 population, or 16 known and confirmed new cases. Our one-week cumulative incidence is currently 34.37 cases per 100,000, with just 9known and confirmed new cases. Our two-week average positivity currently stands at 3.92%, while our one-week average positivity is 4.64%. The statewide one-week average positivity is 5.12%. As with previous updates, the figures reported above do not include at-home test results that have not been reported to the state.