Phil Bondurant has worked for one of the largest health departments in the country and for one of the smallest, and he thinks Summit County suits him just fine. Bondurant was recently brought on as the Summit County Health Department's new Environmental Health Director and is excited for what he sees as the county being "on the cusp" of becoming a larger health department.
"In my opinion, environmental health always has to be proactive," Bondurant said. "My main focus is I always try to earn my keep from an organizational as well as a taxpayer standpoint. They pay to have clean air and clean water."
Bondurant, who is from Henderson, Nev., is taking over for the retired Bob Swensen. He has worked for nine years with the Southern Nevada Health District in Las Vegas, Nev., and previously worked as Director for Environmental Health for the Central Utah Public Health Department in Richfield, Ut.
Bringing sewer to county residents with outdated or malfunctioning septic systems is one of the main goals of the Health Dept. going forward. The department has also brought on an environmental consultant who will assist with on-site wastewater inspections for all new septic systems under 5,000 gallons.
"There have been some [septic] systems that have failed to the point of, 'Whose fault is it?' The installer? The county?" Bondurant said. "We're working on bringing sewer to a lot of outlying areas that are on septic systems. It's part of a push being sought nationwide."
The two most important areas of focus for the Health Department, Bondurant said, are air and water quality, based on residents' concerns and the Summit County Council's goals. Being proactive on air quality is helped by the fact that conditions in Salt Lake City can often be expected to have an impact on Summit County.
"As this county grows, people need to understand that the ozone and PM (particulate matter) 2.5 air quality concerns are not entirely the fault of Salt Lake," Bondurant said. "There is a certain component [of pollution] caused in Summit County."
PM2.5 is the primary winter pollutant, while ozone poses more of a threat in the summer. Bondurant said the Health Department's campaigns such as an anti-idling ordinance and "check engine" light awareness are crucial. Check engine lights almost always mean an emissions problem with a vehicle and the Health Dept. will work with mechanics to make motorists aware of the issue.
On water quality, Bondurant will also facilitate the modernization of the department's water laboratory, where water samples are tested, by bringing in newer processes.
"[The laboratory] will be better at detecting water samples. Although the changes are minor, the results are tenfold," Bondurant said.
The Health Dept. will also work to create a health code that is specific to Summit County. Currently, there are regulations that govern the department's actions but there is no code.
Bondurant believes that the department's educational campaigns are vital in ensuring that the environmental quality of Summit County is safeguarded.
"We're educators before regulators," Bondurant said. "You're never going to get compliance if you continually regulate people."
For more information on the Summit County Health Department's Environmental Health Division, visit summitcountyhealth.org/environmental-health.