For information and help on any of the matters below please contact your area Environmental Health Office.
The Environmental Health Section carries out a number of functions to promote, improve and safeguard public health throughout the Highlands. This includes liaising with SEPA, Scottish Water and the Health Board regarding any public health incidents such as foodborne disease outbreaks.
Officers have wide ranging powers to deal with nuisances that may be causing extreme annoyance or affecting somebody’s health. This can include a number of situations such as noise nuisance, sewage leaks from septic tanks, properties in such poor condition that it affects people’s health, dust from building works, and foul smells affecting properties.
Environmental Health has a duty to monitor approximately 2000 private water supplies that serve 10,000 people throughout the Highlands. Officers can offer advice on improving and maintaining private water supplies and take enforcement action where necessary. Private water supplies are, by their nature, very vulnerable to contamination that may cause waterborne infections. Contamination in the main is bacteriological in nature, from faecal matter such as animal droppings, or it may arise from chemical sources, such as lead piping.
Non means tested grant funding of up to £800 per property may be available to you to improve your private water supply following a free risk assessment of the supply by Council staff.
A water supply may serve only one property or many different properties.
The Section also liaises with Scottish Water regarding the safety of public (mains) water supplies.
Housing Grants and Housing Defects
Officers assess and administer the Housing Grant system that enables people to apply for grants to assist in repairing, or improving their homes. Grants are also available for making a house suitable for the accommodation, welfare and employment of a disabled occupant. In assessing housing defects officers will consider a number of problems including the potential for radon to affect the property. Officers have formal powers to improve properties in serious disrepair or which fail to meet the tolerable standard.
Radon is a natural radioactive gas that can seep out of the ground and accumulate in buildings. The Action Level, where you are recommended to reduce the radon, is 200 becquerels per cubic metre of air. It is known that every year 100 to 200 Scots die from lung cancer which is linked to their exposure to radon but there are practical and inexpensive measures that can be taken to substantially cut the level of radon exposure.
The Health Protection Agency have produced a map defining areas with a 1% or greater probability of exceeding the Action Level("radon Affected Areas") in Scotland and which can be seen on their web site (www.hpa.org.uk)
Initially householders can obtain a measurement for around £40 to establish radon levels. The Health Protection Agency (HPA) provide the test kits and can be contacted on 01235 822622. Following testing householders are then sent details of their radon level, what it means and advice is provided on what to do if there are high levels. There are several tried and tested methods to reduce radon levels in existing homes. The choice of method depends on the radon level and the way your home is built. The HPA has produced a simple colour coded chart to help people select the most appropriate method.
In addition workplaces and rented properties should be assessed for radon in affected areas. Highland Council are preparing an action plan for it's own properties.
Infectious Disease Control
Officers from the Section play an important role in assisting the Health Board with the investigation and prevention of communicable disease including food poisoning.
Food Poisoning is an unpleasant illness caused by the consumption of food or drink, including water, which has been contaminated by bacteria,viruses or chemicals. The predominant cause of food poisoning however are bacteria.
The symptoms of food poisoning can include
- Stomach cramps / pain
- Fever / raised temperature
Following consumption of contaminated food or drink the onset of symptoms may vary from a few hours to a number of days dependent on which type of bacteria is involved. It is important to realise that the cause of your symptoms may not always be the last meal you ate.
If you think you have food poisoning you should see your GP and arrange to submit a stool specimen in order that a laboratory check can be made to isolate and identify the cause of your illness.
If you suspect that food from a particular commercial source such as a restaurant, takeaway etc has caused your illness then you should contact your area Environmental Health Office.
Rats and Mice
The Highland Council has a duty in terms of The Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949, to ensure that infestations of rats and mice are eradicated (this does not mean, however, that we will carry out the work or make arrangements for the work to be carried out).
It is, generally speaking, either the owner or the occupier of the land who is responsible for ensuring that infestations are eradicated.