GarCo has new environmental health manager |

GarCo has new environmental health manager

Donna GrayGlenwood Springs correspondent
Jim Rada is the new environmental health manager for Garfield County.

Jim Rada may be the new kid on the block in Garfield County, but he’s an old hand in his field. Rada is the county’s new environmental health manager, and he’s hit the ground running. His mission is to protect human health from everyday risks. He’ll oversee everything from air and water quality to septic systems to communicable diseases.The county commissioners saw the need because of the increase in service requests from citizens, said Commissioner Larry McCown.”The requests for service were getting so overwhelming for Mary [Meisner, [public health director] that she couldn’t handle them,” he said. “With the increased requests we neededmore service.”Rada, who is a registered environmental health specialist, spent 17 years as the environmental health manager for Summit County Public Health.He came to Colorado via Lombard, Ill., on the west side of Chicago, where he grew up. During his junior year at Illinois State, Rada traveled to Colorado for a skiing vacation and was hooked.”It was so beautiful I told myself that eventually I’d live here,” he said.His big break came in 1986 during a baseball game.”I was home with a broken leg and watching a Cubs game,” Rada said. The phone rang and a friend who knew he was looking to find a job in Colorado told him about an opening in a suburban Denver health department. He interviewed, got the job and was soon inspecting restaurants in Arapahoe, Adams and Douglas counties.After two years there, serendipity struck once again. He got wind that Summit County was looking for someone to start a consumer protection program. He applied and got the job.Rada wore several hats there, as inspector of restaurants, day-care facilities and schools. He reviewed septic system designs for new subdivisions and set up a water-well testing service.Although this is not a new position for Garfield County, it hasn’t been filled for about 15 years, Rada said. Although he will be a part of the county’s public health department, Rada said he’ll face different challenges here than he did in Summit County.”What I’m doing now I don’t have a lot of experience with,” he said about the county’s burgeoning oil and gas industry. “Air quality is really where I’m starting my education here. … I need to learn a lot about oil and gas.”The county has funded two studies that Rada will be closely involved with. Earlier this year it launched an air-quality monitoring program and hydrogeological study of water sources in the western part of the county. It also contracted with the Saccomano Institute in Grand Junction to conduct a health-risk-assessment study to determine if aspects of the oil and gas industry pose a threat to human health.”Those will become the foundation of the environmental health program in Garfield County,” Rada said. “Out of those will probably come a need for further study and recommendations … so we can begin to develop a program around them.”Rada also said he considers public education to be an important part of his job.”In terms of health risks, they are our responsibility. I don’t believe government can do everything for everyone, but we can provide education,” he said. “My hope is to initially provide support for people with questions.”The health-risk-study directors will hold a public meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Battlement Mesa Activity Center. “We’re asking for people who felt they have had a direct impact on their life [from oil and gas activity] to contact [them]. It’s important if we want to have an effective study to have as many people involved as possible,” he said.Rada will also work closely with the public health nurses. “I have a background in epidemiology and communicable disease and outbreak control, predominately in restaurants,” he said. And he’ll lend his expertise to the county planning department in evaluating septic systems for new developments.”I’m not an advocate of big government and not an advocate of changing things overnight,” he said. “I want to be sensible about it and sensitive to issues. I won’t discount anyone’s perspective. I’m glad to be here and hoping to make this a long-term relationship.”

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