Nassau Health Department - Mission: To protect, promote & improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county, & community efforts.
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Environmental Health - Frequently Asked Questions


Questions about Environmental Health?

Click on one of our programs below.

    • Pools, Spa Pools and Bathing Places Permitting and Inspections
    • Water Programs

      Animal Bite (Rabies) Investigations

      What does this program do? This program helps stop the spread of rabies in the community by investigating animal bites to humans. Environmental Health staff work closely with county and municipal animal control officers to properly investigate animal bite cases and submit necessary specimens to the state laboratory for testing.

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      Biomedical Waste Program

      What is this program and what does it do? The biomedical waste program protects public health by ensuring the proper management of biomedical waste in all facilities where biomedical waste is generated, transported or treated for disposal.

      What if I see someone disposing of needles in their home garbage? You can call one of our health department sites. The incident will be investigated and educational materials will be provided to the individual regarding the proper disposal of home generated sharps such as syringes and lancets. Individuals generating sharps in their home are encouraged to use our collection program.

      What do I do if I find biomedical waste that has been illegally dumped? You can contact your local county health department to report it. In Nassau County Call 904-548-1830. To report illegal dumping state wide, after hours or on weekends call the state warning point toll free at: 1-800-320-0519.

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      Community Used Sharps Disposal Program

      What does this program do? This program offers a low cost solution to the problem of unsafe storage and disposal of sharps by home users.

      Who is eligible to use this program? Any private citizen may drop off their home generated sharps (needles, lancets, etc.) in a safe approved container free of charge.

      Why do I have to use an approved sharps container? There are two main reasons why you are required to use an approved sharps container: Florida law requires that all sharps be properly packaged in approved containers prior to transport, our sharps collection sites must comply with this law. Secondly, for the protection of those individuals who will be handling the waste during collection, transport and disposal.

      I don't have a sharps container; what should I do? You can purchase them at most pharmacies or at any of our health department sites. The containers are sold at the health department for a fee. The sale of these containers funds the collection program.

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      Body Piercing Facility Permitting and Inspections

      Why do we inspect Body Piercing salons? Body Piercing salons are permitted and inspected to ensure that sterile instruments are used in a sanitary environment to prevent injury and the spread of bloodborne diseases like HIV and Hepatitis.

      How do I report unlicensed body piercing in Nassau County? Contact the local health department office at 904-548-1830. Body Piercing without a license in Florida is a Felony, punishable by jail time and/or criminal and civil fines.

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      Environmental Epidemiology

      What is this program? Environmental Health, together with its team of regional food/waterborne illness epidemiologists and health department staff are responsible for investigating illness outbreaks associated with food and water consumption and recreational water use.

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      Florida Healthy Beaches Program

      What is the Florida Healthy Beaches Program? The Nassau County Health Department collects samples of beach water from designated sampling sites. The beach water is tested for enterococci. You can also visit the Florida Department of Health's Florida Healthy Beaches Program for more information.

      What happens if the beach is not safe to swim at due to high levels of bacteria from birds? When any of the sample sites exceed the established microbiological standards an advisory is issued and signs are posted. A press release is also issued advising against swimming at these sites until conditions improve and the advisory is rescinded.

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      Food Hygiene Facility Permitting and Inspections

      What is food hygiene and what facilities do we inspect? Sanitary inspections are routinely conducted at school cafeterias, fraternal organizations, lounges, health care institutions and theaters. The purpose of these inspections is to prevent the spread of foodborne disease and illness.

      Who do I call if I got sick at a restaurant? This depends on the number of individuals that became ill. Although the Department of Health is no longer the permitting and inspecting agency of free standing restaurants, our department would conduct a an investigation in conjunction with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation or the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services based on which agency has jurisdiction. Investigations are scheduled when one of these scenarios occur: when one or more individuals were confirmed by positive laboratory results ordered by a doctor that the illness was food related, two or more unrelated cases of foodborne illness, or three or more related cases, such as members of the same family.

      Do you need to report a food or waterborne illness? Please use the online form on the Florida Department of Health's reporting site. You can also notify the Florida Department of Health in Nassau County at 904-548-1830.

      I want to report unsafe or unsanitary conditions in a restaurant, caterer, or mobile food unit. Phone the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation at 850-487-1395.

      I want to report unsafe or unsanitary conditions in a grocery store, convenience store, bakery or food processor. Phone the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at 1-800-435-7352.

      I want to report unsafe or unsanitary conditions in a school, group home/residential living facility, correctional facility, civic and fraternal organization, bar not serving food, or movie theatre. Phone the Nassau County Health Department at 386-274-0692.

      I want to report unsafe or unsanitary conditions in a childcare facility. Contact the child care licensing office in your area as the Health Department no longer inspects these facilities. Contact the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96ABUSE (1-800-962-2873) if you suspect abuse or neglect.

      I want to report unsafe or unsanitary conditions in a hospital or nursing home. Phone the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration at 1-888-419-3456. Press Option Number 1 or contact the local field office in your area. Find your area office by selecting your county.

      I have a retail food product complaint, what do I do? Phone the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at 1-800-435-7352.

      I want to open a restaurant, what must I do? Contact the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation at 850-487-1395.

      Why doesn't the health department issue all food permits? Due to recent legislative changes the Department of Health no longer works with food service facilities in hospitals, nursing homes, child care facilities and churches and other not-for-profit religious organizations. For information regarding child care facilities, please contact the Florida Department of Children and Families. For information regarding hospitals and nursing homes, please contact the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.

      When do I need a food permit from your office? You would need a food permit from the health department if you are: a church advertising dinners to the public, a fraternal or civic organization, bar with NO (or very limited) food service, a child care facility that prepares food other than snacks, a group care facility with a population 25 or above or a movie theatre.

      What permitting is needed for temporary food events? If the vendor is a non profit organization, hosting the event on their own property, the Department of Health would not require a permit, but would require the vender to fill out a temporary food event form. This would include what kinds of foods will be served, where the food is purchased and what facilities will be provided that can safely store the food, such as hot boxes or refrigerators. For example, a church or a fraternal organization is having a Bar-B-Q, then the event sponsors or venders are required to notify the health department not less than three days prior to the scheduled event. The only time the Department of Health is required to conduct an inspection of an event is when an alcoholic beverage license is required. If the event is more than three days in length, then the physical structure where the food preparation occurs shall be protected from the entrance of flying insects and other vermin. Any event where a business or organization is participating in a temporary event off of their property, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation must be notified and a permit to operate may be required by them.

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      Indoor Air Quality Consultation

      What is an indoor air quality consultation and what does the health department do? The Nassau County Health Department assists the public with their indoor environment concerns by offering a variety of services to residents, schools, governmental agencies and public facilities in Nassau and Flagler Counties. These services include phone consultations regarding indoor environment quality problems, advice on the health effects of common indoor air pollutants and consultation services to state and local agencies in the investigation of their indoor environment problems. Our program is consultative and diagnostic in nature and has no regulatory powers. It exists solely to assist the public in solving their indoor environment problems and living a healthier life.

      Can the health department help me with mold problem? We only look for environments that create favorable conditions for mold growth. You should contact a private lab for this service. Landlord/tenant issues refer to local landlord/tenant organization.

      What if I think something is making me sick in my home? Residential indoor air quality investigations are conducted if a physician has diagnosed a resident with a medical condition that is caused by a pollutant in the indoor environment. A physician's referral and a nominal fee is required for this service.

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      Mobile Home Parks, R.V. Parks and Campgrounds Permitting and Inspections

      What does the health department inspect mobile home parks for? Mobile home parks, R.V. parks and campgrounds are inspected to make sure drinking water, sewage disposal, solid waste disposal, fire protection and insect and rodent control are properly maintained so they don't present a health risk to the residents.

      What about all these tents I see during Bike Week or Speed Weeks? Temporary Parks (campgrounds) are only allowed to operate during special events such as Bike Week and Speed Weeks.

      Can I put up a tent anywhere I want? No. Overnight camping whether it be in a tent or recreational vehicle, is only approved in permanent campgrounds or those that meet requirements to be temporarily approved for operation during the timeframe of the special event.

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      Mosquito Borne (Arbovirus) Program

      How does the health department keep us safe from West Nile Virus? The health department partners with Nassau County Mosquito Control to prevent the spread of mosquito borne illness in the community. Sentinel chickens are monitored and tested for exposure to arboviruses. Chickens are good sentinels because they do not get sick from these viruses or transmit them to humans. Horses with Eastern equine encephalitis or West Nile may be the first indicator that an arbovirus is in an area. Dead birds are an indicator that West Nile virus may be in an area.

      What do I do if I see a dead bird? Please report dead birds to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation and Commission or you may also call your local health department.

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      Onsite Sewage Treatment and Disposal Systems

      I am going to start up a new business

      I am going to start up a new business and have found a shop that is the perfect size and location.  I went to get my occupational license and they told me I had to get the septic tank system approved by the Nassau County Health Department.  What is the reason for this inspection process?

      Florida Statute 381.0065 requires that all businesses that use a septic tank system for sewage disposal obtain approval from the local health department any time that there is a change in the business owner, business type or a tenant.  Septic tank systems are specifically sized based on the type of business that is connected to the system.  Changes in business operations can increase the sewage flow or change the sewage characteristics which may cause premature septic system failure resulting in a sanitary nuisance and expensive repairs. 

      So now you know the reason why it is needed.  Who is responsible for submitting the application?  The application can be submitted and paid for by the owner or tenant.  Here is the link to the procedure you need to follow to start the inspection process. Click here to go to the septic system inspections instructions page.

      I plan on adding a room onto my existing home.

      I plan on adding a room onto my existing home.  The building department told me I needed to have the existing septic tank system approved before they would issue a building permit.  I think that I do not need to do this because it will not be air conditioned.

      If you are going to add on to your existing home you will need to have an existing septic system inspection.  This inspection procedure is needed to determine if the existing septic system is large enough for the addition.  Garages, carports, exterior storage sheds, or open or screened patios or decks are excluded.  Air conditioning or heating of the addition is irrelevant to this requirement.  The enclosed habitable area of a dwelling unit is considered building area which is used to determine the required septic system size.  Here is the link to the application and instructions to follow. Click here to go to the septic system inspections.

      I own a lot which I plan on building a house.

      I own a lot which I plan on building a house.  I was told by a friend of mine that I will probably need to have a mounded septic system.  My lot is high and dry it never flooded during the heavy rains we had recently so I do not want a mound.  Who determines if I need a mound?

      Chapter 64E-6 of the Florida Administrative Code requires a 24 inch separation between the wet season water table and the bottom of the drainfield.  Water tables can fluctuate drastically between rainy and dry seasons.  Wet season water tables are determined by looking at the color and texture of the soil, USDA soil survey maps, and vegetation in the area.  Once the water table is established then a permit is written to meet State code requirements.  If the 24 inch separation to the water table requires that the drainfield be mounded then it will require stabilization with 6 to 18 inches of soil cover and 4 foot shoulders on all sides of the drainfield material.  If sod will be used on the slopes then a 2:1 slope is required for mounds up to 36 inches high, 3:1 slopes for mounds greater than 36 inches high; if hay and seed is used then 5:1 slopes must be provided regardless of mound height.

      Note:  If a mound is needed to repair or replace an existing septic system at an existing home or business then there are different water table separation requirements depending on the permit date of the original septic system.

      What is the reason for an inspection of the septic tank system for a new business? Septic tank systems are specifically sized based on the type of business that is connected to the system. Changes in business operations can increase the sewage flow or change the sewage characteristics which may cause premature septic system failure resulting in a sanitary nuisance and expensive repairs.

      What is the reason to have the existing septic tank system approved before I add a room onto my home? If you are going to add on to your existing home you will need to have an existing septic system inspection. This inspection procedure is needed to determine if the existing septic system is large enough for the addition. Garages, carports, exterior storage sheds, open or screened patios or decks are excluded. Air conditioning or heating of the addition is irrelevant to this requirement. The health department inspects septic systems to ensure that they meet proper setbacks to drinking water wells, surface waters such as lakes and rivers, and to the wet season water table.  They also are inspected to make sure they are the proper size as required by Florida Administrative Code 64E-6.

      Who determines if I need a mound septic system? A mound system is determined by site/soil evaluators. Persons that meet certain educational requirements spelled out in the Florida Administrative Code can perform a site evaluation. The bottom of the drainfield must meet setback requirements to the wet season water table that was determined by the site evaluator. They look for texture and color changes in the soil to determine the water table. The closer the water table is to the ground surface the higher the mound system will be.

      My drainfield isn't working what do I do? If your drainfield is not working we suggest that you contact a septic tank contractor or licensed plumber that performs septic system work. The contractor can evaluate the system by asking specific questions, conducting a site visit, and possibly pumping out the tank. Some drainfield problems can be corrected by lowering water usage by fixing leaky faucets or toilets. A clogged filter in newer septic systems might need cleaning.

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      PACE-EH (Protocol for Assessing Community Excellence in Environmental Health)

      What is PACE-EH? PACE-EH is a 13 step program designed to identify local community environmental public health problems and generate solutions to those problems. This program establishes active solutions to community identified issues, generates new and improved leadership roles in the community regarding environmental health issues, creates new professional partnerships, builds confidence to take on large projects and establishes new relationships between local health agencies and communities. To read more about the program please visit the Florida Department of Health's PACE-EH website.

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      Pools, Spa Pools and Bathing Places Permitting and Inspections

      What types of pools does the health department inspect? The health department routinely inspects public swimming pools and spas which serve hotels, condominiums, apartment buildings, and other public facilities.

      What do we inspect them for? Inspections are conducted to ensure that the pool does not present a threat to swimmers from a disease or safety standpoint. Environmental health staff check on such items as water disinfection, filtration, water chemistry and clarity, pool interior and deck for safety hazards, safety equipment such as signage, presence of life-rings and shepard's hook, and pump room equipment. If an immediate hazard to bathers is discovered then the pool will be posted closed until the problem is corrected by the pool operator.

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      Limited Use Public Water Systems (LUPWS)

      What is the Limited Use Public Water Program? This program deals with Limited Use Public Water Systems (public water systems which are not covered by the Safe Drinking Water Act), multi-family water systems and private water systems. Definitions for these systems and statutory authorization are found in section 381.0062 of the Florida Statutes. Chapter 64E-8 of the Florida Administrative Code establishes the rules to implement the statutes. It includes setback standards for private water systems, construction standards for multi-family water systems, and construction and operation standards for limited use public water systems. The program is implemented at the local level by the Nassau County Health Department.

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      Public Drinking Water Systems

      What is a public drinking water system? A public drinking water system, as defined in the Florida Statutes regulating the Florida Safe Drinking Water Act, is a water system that provides piped water for human consumption for 25 or more people for more than 60 days per year, or has 15 or more service connections. There are three types of public water systems included in this definition: Community Water Systems, Non-Transient Non-Community Water Systems and Non-Community System. In addition, other public water systems not falling into these definitions are regulated in Nassau County under a separate Florida Statute.

      Where does my drinking water come from? In Nassau County the drinking water that is supplied to our homes comes from ground water. Ground water is water located below the ground where it collects in pores and spaces within rocks and in underground aquifers. We obtain ground water by drilling wells and pumping it to the surface.

      Public water systems provide treated water from ground water for public use. Water treatment systems are either government or privately-held facilities that withdraw water from the source, treat it, and deliver it to our homes.

      A private well uses ground water as its water source. Owners of private wells and other individual water systems are responsible for ensuring that their water is safe from contaminants. For more information on private wells and individual water systems, visit CDC's Healthy Water Private Wells page.

      What type of health issues can be related to water quality? The presence of certain contaminants in our water can lead to health issues, including gastrointestinal illness, reproductive problems and neurological disorders. Infants, young children, pregnant women, the elderly and immunocompromised persons may be especially at risk for becoming ill after drinking contaminated water. For example, elevated levels of lead can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children. Federal law requires that systems reduce certain contaminants to set levels, in order to protect human health. However, the presence of contaminants when tested does not necessarily indicate that the water poses a health risk.

      What contaminants should I be concerned about in my drinking water?

      There can be many sources of contamination of our water systems. Here is a list of the most common sources of contaminants:

      • Naturally occurring chemicals and minerals. (for example, arsenic, radon, uranium.)
      • Local land use practices. (fertilizers, pesticides, livestock, concentrated animal feeding operations.)
      • Manufacturing processes.
      • Sewer overflows.
      • Malfunctioning wastewater treatment systems. (for example, nearby septic systems.)

      Who do I need to contact to find out more information about water quality in my area? Drinking water quality varies from place to place. Every community water supplier must provide an annual report, sometimes called a Consumer Confidence Report or CCR to its customers. The report provides information on your local drinking water quality, including the water's source, contaminants found in the water, and how consumers can get involved in protecting drinking water.

      How often does our public water system test our drinking water? Drinking water can be tested around the clock, including hourly, monthly, quarterly, and annually, depending on the location and size of the public water system. Certain contaminants are tested for more frequently than others, as set forth by the Safe Drinking Water Act. Compliance testing is conducted once a year, before Consumer Confidence Reports are mailed to consumers.

      What common contaminants are included in this testing? The EPA sets standards and regulations for the presence and amount of over 90 different contaminants in public drinking water, including E.coli, Salmonella, and Cryptosporidium species. More information regarding the specific contaminants and maximum contaminant levels can be found on the EPA's website for Drinking Water Contaminants list.

      What should I do if I want my household water tested? Private drinking water well owners have the following options:

      • Collect your own water samples for (total coliform) bacteria, nitrates or chlorides and submit them to the Nassau County Environmental Health Lab or a properly certified private laboratory.
      • If a water sample is needed for a mortgage loan approval or a new well approval, it must be taken by a trained professional.
      • If a nearby contamination source is present, or neighboring wells are showing up with high levels of other chemical contaminants, well owners may want to consider more extensive testing of their well. Dangerous chemicals can enter into the groundwater from leaking underground gasoline storage tanks, over-use of pesticides, landfills, improper dumping of hazardous wastes and storm water run-off.

      Who should I contact if my water has a funny smell, taste, or appearance? A change in your water's taste, color, or smell is not necessarily a health concern. However, a change could be a sign of serious contamination problems. If you notice a change in your water, call you public water system company.

      If you want to test your water, your local health department should assist in explaining any tests that you need for various contaminants. If your local health department is not able to help you can contact a state certified laboratory to perform the test. To find a state certified laboratory in your area call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.

      How can I find out if there has been a violation in our public water standard? When water quality standards have not been met, your public water system must notify you through the media, mail or other means. Your annual Consumer Confidence Report is another way to find out about the water quality in your area. It provides information regarding contaminants, possible health effects and the water's source.

      How do I find out if there is a boil water or other water advisory in my community? There are three levels of public notification, based on the seriousness of a contamination event. A Tier 1 notification pertains to the most serious and acute contamination events. Notification must be broadcast by local media within 24 hours. Tier 2 allows for a 30-day notification. Tier 3 provides notification through the annual Consumer Confidence Report. Your public water system is responsible for notifying residents if the water quality does not meet EPA or state standards or if there is a waterborne disease emergency. Depending on which tier level applies, you should be notified by the media, mail or other means.

      If there is a boil water advisory in my community, how do I disinfect my drinking water? In order to disinfect your drinking water during a boil water advisory, you should boil your water at a rolling boil for at least one minute. Boiling your water for at least one minute at a rolling boil will inactivate all harmful bacteria, parasites, and viruses from drinking water.

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      SUPER Act Program.

      The Florida Legislature created the State Underground Petroleum Environmental Response Act (SUPER Act) (Chapter 376.3071, Florida Statutes) in response to ground water contamination resulting from leaking underground petroleum storage tanks. Locally our program conducts well surveillance in potentially impacted areas, notifies the public of potential adverse health effects and provides assistance in obtaining alternative sources of drinking water.

      What is the Drinking Water Toxics Program? The Drinking Water Toxics Program is responsible for groundwater sampling for chemical contamination of private drinking water supplies. Contamination monitoring helps protect the public from agricultural chemicals, industrial solvents and heavy metals.

      What is the Dry-cleaning Solvent Surveillance Program? The Dry-cleaning Solvent Surveillance Program (DSSP) (Chapter 376.3078, Florida Statutes) is responsible for identifying areas in the county having drinking water contaminated as a result of discharges of solvents used in the dry-cleaning process. This program conducts well surveillance in potentially impacted areas, notifies the public of potential adverse health effects.

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      Well Construction Program

      Can a home owner drill their own water well? Yes, a home owner may drill their own well up to 2 inches diameter upon approval of a well construction permit through this department. The owner is expected to follow all rules and regulations pertaining to proper construction of a well as outlined in the Florida Administrative Code.

      Can a home owner drill a private drinking water well when public water supply is available? No, the department does not approve private drinking water well permits when a potable water supply is available.

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      Well Surveillance Program

      What is the Well Surveillance Program? Recognizing the number of contaminated facilities and the threat to drinking water, the Department of Health was given the public health responsibility of identifying and sampling drinking water wells around contaminated facilities. The Well Surveillance Program is a combination of the following three programs: the State Underground Petroleum Environmental Response Act (SUPER Act), the Drinking Water Toxics Program and the Dry-cleaning Solvent Surveillance Program.

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