Many Stakeholders Want Solutions to Workforce Challenges in Environmental Health

Inspection and permitting backlogs in environmental health departments trouble stakeholders at both ends of the political spectrum including state and local governments.

Whether an environmental health inspection is for the repair of an existing private well or for a new septic system in a community development project, almost all parties want to make sure the final product is safe. Environmental health specialists in local health departments need to manage the workload to get these requests fulfilled, but due to recruitment and retention issues, delays in processing applications for both types of scenarios can occur.  This lapse can lead to problematic and dangerous outcomes.

In the former example, a homeowner could experience exposure to contaminated water and in the latter, communities could lose an opportunity to welcome valuable investment and developments into their neighborhoods. A Bay Journal article does well to characterize the frustration experienced across a spectrum of stakeholder interests, including the local departments that need to manage the workload. The article cited a 40 percent statewide vacancy rate in local environmental health departments, while also reiterating that the Maryland Department of the environment is in a similar situation of needing more people to do the work.

Garrett County Health Officer and current President of the Maryland Association of County Health Officers, Bob Stephens, commented that these issues have arisen while climate change has concurrently compounded the problem adding even greater challenges.

“This is a complex issue that will require new solutions at both the local and state levels.”

The 2023 MACo Summer Conference will host a session titled, “Water, Waste, and Workforce – Managing Old Problems with New Solutions.” An esteemed panel of leaders and policy experts will explore the challenge of managing significant and growing demands in the environmental health profession with insufficient resources to meet those needs.

The 2023 MACo Summer Conference will be held at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, MD from August 16-19. This year’s theme is “Where The Rubber Meets the Road.” More information can be found on our conference website.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Questions? Contact Virginia White