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FAQ - Environmental Health

Drinking Water

How often should I test my well water?

Private well water should be tested a minimum of once per year. Drinking water supplies obtained from shallow wells and surface water sources should be tested more frequently (i.e., seasonally), as they are more susceptible to contamination. It is important to test your drinking water at the tap and at the source. Testing both will help you determine if your water treatment system is performing correctly and if the quality of your source water has changed.

I had my well tested two years ago. Can those test results satisfy the requirements for selling my property? 

The law states that test results are valid for one year from the date of testing if they are associated with the sale of the property. (OAR 333-061-0325 (7)).

Is my well water safe to drink?

The only way to tell if your drinking water is safe is by having it tested at a certified laboratory. Harmful bacteria, parasites, and viruses are invisible to the naked eye, so water that looks and tastes good may not necessarily be safe to drink. These microbes can exist in surface and groundwater supplies and can cause immediate sickness in humans if not properly treated. Certain chemical contaminants that are sometimes found in a water source can cause long term health problems that take years to develop. Frequent water testing will decrease the risk by identifying unsafe water and ensure that the treatment system is treating the water to a satisfactory level.

What does "for human consumption" mean when used to describe drinking water?

Human consumption means water used for drinking, personal hygiene, bathing, showering, cooking, dishwashing, and maintaining oral hygiene.

What tests are recommended for private well water?

For information regarding testing of your water for personal use, contact your county health department. For Real Estate transactions, tests for Arsenic, Nitrate, and Coliform Bacteria are required in accordance with Oregon Administrative Rules (OAR 333-061-0305 to 333-061-0335).

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Where can I get my well water tested?

Sampling and testing of your well should be conducted by an Accredited Oregon Drinking Water Laboratory in your area. Some communities offer free screenings, through extension services, called "Test Your Well" events.

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Food Handler

Are all online Food Handler card testing sites approved in Oregon?

No. There are a number of online courses that say, or imply, they are approved in Oregon but are not. Check the list at the Department of Human Services Foodborne Prevention Program before taking your test online.

How can I get a replacement for a lost Food Handler's card?

To obtain a replacement for your Food Handler's card, you will need to contact the Environmental Health Program where you orginally took your test. The cost is $5.00 and a valid photo ID is required.

How do I get my Food Handler card?

Study the Food Handler Manual and take the test. A passing score is 75% or higher.

How do I know if I need a Food Handler's card?

Food service workers are required to obtain a Food Handler's card within 30 days of beginning work. "Food Handler" means those persons involved in the perpartion or service of food in a restaurant or food facility licensed under ORS 624.020 or 624.320. This includes, but is not limited to, cooks, wait staff, dishwashers, bartenders, and bus persons.

How long is a Food Handler card valid?

The card is valid for three years from the date of issuance throughout the state.

How much does it cost to obtain a Food Handler's card?

It costs $5.00 to take the Food Handler's test and another $5.00 when you have passed to receive your card. The total cost is $10.00. The card is valid statewide for three years.

How should I study for the Food Handler test?

Before taking the Food Handler's Certification test, you should study the Food Handler's manua. The manual is available at these locations or online. The manual is available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, Russian, and Korean.

What are the "Demonstration of Knowledge" and "Person in Charge" rules in the food industry?

Oregon State law requires that restaurants have a designated "Person in Charge" (PIC) onsite during all hours of operation who can provide a "Demonstration of Knowledge" of the Oregon Food Code, including knowledge of foodborne disease prevention, application of Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points (HACCP) and the requirements in the food rule.

The Person in Charge may meet the demonstration of knowledge requirment in one of these ways:
  1) Being a certified food protection manager who has successfully
passed a test as part of an acredited program recognized by
the Oregon Department of Human Services.
  2) Correctly answering qeustions posed by the inspector.
  3) Compliance with the rule as exhibited by no critical
For more information about these rules, go to the State of Oregon's Fooborne Illness Prevention Program at

Where can I pick up a copy of the Food Handler manual?

Food Handler manuals are avilable at Washington County's Evironmental Health office located in Hillsboro. The city libraries of Tigard, Hillsboro, and Beaverton have manuals available which can be checked out. Food Handler manuals are available for in-library use at the City Of Tualitin Library, City of Forest Grove Library, and several of the high school libraries in Washington County. You can also read the manual online or download it.

Where can I take the Food Handler's certification test?

You can take the test in the office or at the following locations.

Where can I take the Food Manager Certification Course?

In Oregon, Food Manager Certification is not requried by law. However, a Food Manager Cerfification Course can provide the information necessary to keep your food facility safe. Washington County Environmental Health Program offers training and certification. Food Manager Certificaton satisfies the Oregon Food Code, is valid for five years and also satisfies the Food Handler Certification.

Onsite Sewage

Can I renew, reinstate or transfer my current septic permit?

Permits expire one year after the date of issuance and may be renewed or reinstated by the original permittee one time only. They must be renewed or reinstated within one year of the expiration date of the original permit and will expire one year after the original permit expiration date.

Permits may be transferred from the original permittee to a new property owner if the transfer is completed before the original permit expires, and no changes in the permit are needed. Otherwise, a new permit is required. A transferred permit carries the same expiration date as the original permit.

Note: Fee for renewal, reinstatement, or transfer of a permit is less than that of a new permit, see fee schedule.

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How big does my property need to be to install a septic system?

Generally, when a well is located on the lot, two or more acres is needed for a standard septic system and a replacement area. If a lot is served by a community or public water system, a lot as small as 1/2 acre may be adequate.

How can I locate my septic system?

There are three ways to locate a septic system:
-- Contact our office. If an as-built drawing exists we can e-mail, fax or copy the appropriate plot plans.
-- Try to determine where the plumbing exits on the foundation and follow the sewage line to the tanks.
-- Contact a licensed plumber who has the equipment necessary to help locate the system.

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I have an existing system but cannot determine what type of application I need.  What are the different applications concerning existing systems?

Repair Permits are required for repairing/replacing failing sewage systems that serve existing facilities. 

Alteration Permits are required for changing/upgrading a sewage system for an existing facility.

Authorization Notices are evaluations of the existing system to determine if it is adequate for proposed use.

Existing System Evaluations are completed to determine the location and size of a system and to check if the system is currently functioning properly. 

I have undeveloped land and I want to install a septic system, what are my first steps?

Step One: Apply for a site evaluation. The site evaluation determines if a site is acceptable. If the site is acceptable, the site evaluation identifies the best location, type and size of system for the undeveloped property.

Step Two: Submit an application for construction/installation permit. Once the application is received, the documents will be reviewed and either approved or denied within two to five business days. If approved, a construction/installation permit is issued. 

Step Three: Construction/Installation permit is issued. Once you receive the permit, you may begin installation of the septic system. You are required to submit a request for inspection after the installation is complete, but before the system is backfilled.

Step Four: After the inspection is completed and approved, backfill the installation.

What is the minimum capacity required for a tank and drainfield in relation to number of bedrooms?

A 1,000 gallon tank is the required minimum capacity for a home with one to four bedrooms. A 1,500 gallon tank is required for homes with five or more bedrooms. Specific septic tank capacities for commercial facilities are determined on a water use basis, generally a minimum of two times the projected daily sewage flow.  

When does the "no field visit" fee apply in a permit renewal application or an authorization application?

Permit renewals, reinstatements, transfers, and authorization notices for systems that are less than five years old and that do not require alteration(s) of the septic system may not require a filed visit. 

Why do I need an "authorization" and  why do I need a file review and how long does it take?

An authorization evaluates if the existing sewage disposal system is adequate for a specific use. This can include reconnecting to, changing the use of, or increasing the projected daily sewage flow of an existing septic system. Most notices require a field visit. Authorization evaluations are usually completed in ten business days.

A file review is required for additions to existing buildings, such as, construction of outbuildings, swimming pools, decks, etc., to assure that the placements of these structures do not infringe on any portion of the existing septic system or the replacement area. A file review is completed within two to five business days after we receive a completed application, plot plan, and the authorization of representative form (if applicable).