Public Health - Environmental Health

Environmental Health

The field of environmental health is concerned with how our quality of life is impacted by the environment. Contaminated food, water, and air can lead to adverse health outcomes. Environmental health workers, sometimes called sanitarians, strive to ensure that people are not harmed by the environment in which they live. They work to protect people from hazards such as water-borne pathogens, radon, lead, and asbestos.

Shared Responsibility

Federal, state, county and local governments share responsibility for protecting citizens from health hazards in the environment. In Ontario County, the Public Health Department does not have any environmental health specialists. Instead, we work closely with the regional office of the New York State Department of Health to address environmental concerns. Some situations can be addressed by town or village code enforcement officers. Others require the involvement of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) or Agriculture and Markets. Sometimes it is necessary to refer to the National Center for Environmental Health.

The lead agency in Ontario County for the investigation of environmental hazards is the regional office of the New York State Department of Health, located in Geneva, New York. Some of its responsibilities are:

  1. Restaurant inspections
  2. Inspection of homes contaminated by lead paint and assistance with plans for lead eradication
  3. Review of applications for water systems
  4. Collaboration with the local health department during outbreaks of food and water borne illnesses
  5. Inspection of summer camps

Where To Get Assistance

New York State Department of Health, Geneva District Office

To discuss your concerns about environmental hazards or restaurant safety, contact the Geneva District Office at 315-789-3030.

Hot Topics in Environmental Health

Restaurant & Food Safety

Ontario County Public Health staff members often receive questions about restaurants and food safety. Food can cause illness in a variety of ways. Ill food handlers, improper food storage, and failure to keep food preparation areas clean can lead to food borne illnesses. Food safety is a major priority of environmental health sanitarians. If you are concerned you became ill related to eating at a particular restaurant, first seek medical care and then contact the restaurant. Next, contact the NYS Department of Health Geneva District Office at 315-789-3030. Additionally, the NYS Department of Health maintains a list of restaurants across the state with inspection violations.

NYS Restaurant Violations

Blue-Green Algae

Blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) are naturally-occurring bacteria that live in ponds, lakes, rivers and streams across our state. Sunny weather causes these organisms to increase in number. Blue-green algae thrive in shallow, undisturbed, surface waters. Large amounts of algae can discolor water and form floating scums on the surface. Water may look greenish, yellowish or even brownish red. Severely affected water may take on a paint-like appearance.

NYSDOH Blue Green Algae

Giant Hogweed

Learn about this local menace and steps you can take to prevent exposure. 

Giant Hog Weed

Private Water Supplies (Wells)

Learn about maintaining private water supplies (wells).


(Updated 2/3/2022)