Thursday, October 31, 2013

What to do with medical waste?

Prescription Medications

Perhaps a family member has been ill recently, or maybe it’s just been a long time since you cleaned out your medicine cabinet. If you are like most people, you have unwanted or expired prescription medications in your home. So, what do you do with them?

Rule 1: Don’t flush it!
Rule 2: Don’t trash it!
Rule 3: Drop it off!
There are several convenient locations throughout Thurston County. Please do not put sharps (needles) in the drop boxes.
Sharps are used in the home by people with chronic illness.
What should I do with my sharps?
Never flush them down the toilet or place them loose into the trash. Follow these safe disposal tips:

  • Place sharps in a manufactured sharps container (available at pharmacies, medical supply stores, and medical providers) or an empty, sturdy plastic bottle with a tight fitting lid. Two-liter pop, bleach or laundry detergent bottles work well. Water bottles (made of a weaker plastic) aren’t a good choice.

  • When your container is full, secure the lid tightly. 
  • If you are using an empty plastic bottle, tape the lid for added security and write the words “sharps waste” in large letters on the bottle with a permanent marker.

  • Place the sharps container in with your trash, never with your recyclables. As an alternative, sharps can also be taken to HazoHouse.

Other Sharps Disposal Options
Some companies offer the convenience of home sharps container mailback services. The following websites provide details on starting a mailback service.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Health Advisory Lifted at Long Lake

The algae bloom on Long Lake (near Lacey) has dissipated and county health officials have lifted the toxic algae advisory.

Although the warning signs around the lake are removed, people and pets should avoid waters with visible algae. Not all algae blooms are toxic, but some can produce toxins that can harm the nervous system, the liver, the skin, the stomach, and intestines.

You can find a list of current toxic algae blooms on Thurston County Environmental Health's website

To learn more read our blog post, “Blue-green Algae Blooms.”

Health Advisories at Lawrence Lake & Lake St. Clair

Update: These health advisories have been lifted.

There are currently health advisories for blue-green algae toxin on Lawrence Lake and Lake St. Clair. 

When there is a toxic algae bloom, people are advised to:

  • Avoid recreational contact with the lake.
  •   Keep pets out of the water.  
  •   If fishing, catch and release is the safest practice.

Warning signs are posted at access points around the lakes and area home owners will be contacted. The Thurston County Health Department will monitor the lakes weekly until the advisory can be lifted. 

There is still a health advisory at Pattison Lake.
Health advisory at Long Lake has been lifted.

If you have questions, contact Cathy Hansen at (360) 867-2645 or Art Starry at (360) 867-2587.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Septic Help Line - for all of your septic system questions!

Did you know Thurston County Environmental Health operates a Septic Help Line?

If you have any questions about septic systems, all you have to do is call and leave a message. A staff member will get back to within a few days. You can choose to remain anonymous as long as you leave a phone number for an expert to get back to you. However, county staff may have to access your records to provide you with the best possible assistance.

 Septic Help Line: (360) 867-2669

For more information, including brochures and videos, visit Thurston County's Septic Systems website. For the Dos and Donts of caring for a septic system, check out our blog post, Septic System Care Begins with You.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Understanding Restaurant Inspections

Many of us enjoy checking out the results of restaurant inspections from The Olympian newspaper. But do we really know what the results mean?

In Thurston County, there are almost one thousand permitted food establishments, with each one getting routine inspections by Food Safety staff from the Thurston County Public Health and Social Services Department. Scores from restaurant inspections are reported weekly through The Olympian newspaper, as well as through their website

Here is a restaurant inspection report from The Olympian’s website this summer:

EAGAN’S 1420 Harrison Ave. W. Olympia. June 12: Routine check (0 red, 0 blue) Comments: Red — None noted. Blue — None noted.

This shows that Eagan’s was inspected on June 12th and there were no red or blue violations found during the inspection. Violations are scored based on the severity of the problem, from a high of 25 points given for not washing hands properly, to 2 points for needing better lighting.

The food safety concerns we inspect for have not changed much in the last 50 years:

  • Keep cold food at the correct cold temperature.
  • Keep hot food at the correct hot temperature.
  • Wash hands properly and often.
  •  Keep a clean kitchen.
  •  Keep raw meats from other foods.

Take a look at a restaurant inspection form from 1944 to compare with today’s form. We have made great strides in understanding how food can make us sick but the basic food safety steps have been well known for some time.

Red violations are those most likely to cause food-borne illness and must be corrected immediately if feasible, or according to a compliance schedule. An example: not keeping food hot enough (hot holding). This would be corrected by reheating the food to 165 degrees F in order to make sure that there were no harmful bacteria on the food. Other examples of red violations include: refrigerator not cold enough, not washing hands as needed, or not cleaning and sanitizing cutting boards after being used with raw meat.

Blue violations relate to the overall cleanliness and condition of the restaurant and must be corrected within a given timeframe. Examples include: the floor is worn and needs replacing within 3 months, or the grease hood needs to be cleaned within three days. 

When looking at a restaurant with violations, note the number of problems and severity, especially the red items. Most violations are quickly fixed and good managers/owners are key in making sure their employees are well trained and problems are not repeated. Everyone can make a mistake and one employee can cause several violations so seeing your favorite restaurant have a violation should not turn you away for life. Thurston County’s Food Safety staff becomes concerned when a restaurant’s problems are not corrected and when they are repeated. On the other hand, there are many restaurants that work very hard to earn a clean inspection and they deserve recognition for their efforts.

For more information visit Thurston County’s Food Safety website.