Rada leaving Garfield County environmental health position
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Garfield County’s first environmental health manager is leaving the county after seven years to take a similar position in the Denver area.
Jim Rada will be leaving Garfield County June 1 to become the environmental health division services director for Jefferson County, where he will oversee that county’s environmental health programs and supervise a staff of 21 people.
“My thanks to the county commissioners and to [Garfield public health director] Mary Meisner for all the support you have given my program in its first seven years,” Rada said during the monthly board of health report to the Garfield Board of County Commissioners on Monday.
“We have moved the county in a positive direction, which has not been without some challenging and contentious moments,” Rada said. “It has been a tremendous and rewarding learning experience for me that led to this new opportunity on the Front Range.”
Meisner reported that Rada will be replaced by Paul Reaser, who has been Garfield County’s senior environmental health specialist for the past five years.
“This will be a great new opportunity to learn and grow,” Reaser said after Monday’s meeting.
“I hope to continue in a spirit of empowering the community, and getting the community more involved,” said Reaser, who was a research specialist at the Harvard School of Public Health prior to joining the Garfield County Public Health Department.
Meisner is currently advertising for a new environmental health specialist to oversee the technical aspects of the county’s expanding air quality monitoring program.
In addition to being responsible for water quality monitoring, oversight of septic systems and public information about communicable diseases, Rada was instrumental in developing the county’s air monitoring program in recent years.
He was hired in 2005 to become the county’s first environmental health manager. A similar county level position had existed in the late 1980s under the building department, but had not been in existence for several years.
Meisner, with the support of the county commissioners, created the new position as the county was seeing an increase in the number of calls from residents related to environmental health issues.
Much of that was due to the rapid increase in natural gas development in the county, which became a key area of oversight for Rada.
“We are going to miss Jim,” said Dave Devanney, a member of the Battlement Mesa Concerned Citizens group, which lobbied for more air monitoring in response to a plan by Antero Resources to start drilling within the residential community.
“He has certainly been an advocate for Garfield County citizens, and he has done a lot of work to bring an air quality monitoring program to the county,” Devanney said. “Hopefully the program he has started will continue.”
That program was expanded Monday when the commissioners acted on a previous commitment to buy a mobile air monitoring station, which will be used initially in the Battlement Mesa area.
The mobile station itself will cost $156,000. Commissioners also agreed to contract with Air Resource Specialists Inc. of Fort Collins to test air quality samples and provide data to the county.
Devanney also credited Rada for bringing the Colorado School of Public Health on board to weigh health concerns as part of a health impact assessment related to drilling activity in the Battlement Mesa area.
“That was the first time health impacts were considered in relation to oil and gas development,” Devanney said. “Hopefully that’s something that will continue to be looked at in the future.”
County commissioners ended the health impact study before a final report was issued, while Antero has delayed plans to expand drilling into Battlement Mesa.
Rada, 52, spent 17 years as the environmental health manager for Summit County Public Health before joining Garfield County.
His role in Jefferson County will be more administrative in nature, with a focus on what he referred to as a “more traditional environmental health program.” That will include health issues related to more urban land-use activities, as opposed to the natural resource and agricultural activities that are more common in Garfield County.
Air quality in the metropolitan Denver area falls under the state health department’s oversight, he noted, “and there is no oil and gas activity to speak of there.”
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