City-County Board of Health updates

By Moira Blazi
The city-County Board of Health met on Wednesday, Jan. 10 and discussed a vari-ety of topics.
The board approved the appointment of new mem-ber, Dr. Sara Huddleston, a local physician. Huddleston will serve as secretary and board member Jan Ivers will serve as chair.
Brian Alkire presented a report on the state of the county’s solid waste and recycling programs.

He said that, unfortu-nately, the county will no longer be able to accept plas-tics for recycling. Alkire said that these are universal cuts stemming from contamina-tion issues affecting the Chi-na market which processes over 90% of recycled plastic. Alkire also informed the board that plans for a landfill expansion are beginning with bids being accepted for some of the work. He said that the current landfill has 35 thousand square feet left, and over 45 thousand have been used. It is estimated that the landfill will be com-pletely full in nine and a half years.
Jake Martes presented an environmental health update which included a reminder that this is national radon action month. Martes said that radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer, and Montana has a higher than average number of fa-talities, mostly in the eastern part of the state.

Radon gas is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can enter homes and other buildings, causing health problems. A limited number of test kits are avail-able from the county
The Public Health Nurse’s office weighed in with an update on the cur-rent state of the flu season. Jennifer McCully informed the assembled group that so far there have been 19 local hospitalizations due to flu.

Ten cases of pertussis have been reported in chil-dren ages three to seven years, and three of those children were unvaccinated. Dr. Brad Black added that older kids who received a vaccination when they were very young may also be susceptible, so parents may want to consider getting another pertussis vaccine. McCully also addressed the ongoing mental health crisis brought on by the sud-den closure of Western Mon-tana Mental Health Center’s Libby office. She said Sun-burst Mental Health among others are working hard to pick up the slack. The prob-lem affects law enforcement as well, said McCully, “When there is a mental health emergency, a mental health professional needs to be there, now there is no one available.”
New board member Dr. Sara Huddleston added that there are indeed alot of peo-ple working on it and looking for creative solutions, case managers were laid off all over the state, and offices in Livingston and Dillion were also closed due to the states massive budget shortfall.

Jake Martens from the county environmental health office submitted for board approval a proposal allowing local law enforcement offic-ers the ability to issue cita-tions to violators of the county residential and com-mercial wastewater ordi-nance. Previously, if an indi-vidual or business refused to comply with the ordinance, officers could only refer them to the county attorney for possible prosecution. “Now, said Martens, “they will have the ability to write a ticket.” The motion was approved.
There was some discus-sion of a recently issued po-sition statement regarding the ongoing Operation and Maintenance (O&M) phase of the asbestos superfund cleanup. The statement states that the EPA will not be shifting financial respon-sibility for cleanup to indi-vidual homeowners. Board members reassured the as-sembled citizenry of their commitment to hold the federal government to this promise.