“We are going to continue to have these challenges until we can provide more housing for people, because that really is our No. 1 deterrent,” said Board of Supervisors chairwoman Shirlee Zane.
The report also highlighted what it characterized as a training challenge for prospective employees. Full-fledged Environmental Health and Safety staff are required to be certified as a Registered Environmental Health Specialist, which requires at least a bachelor’s degree, 30 undergraduate units in the hard sciences and a set of specific courses, as well as 200 to 600 hours in a state-recognized program plus an exam.
Sonoma State University does not have a curriculum that leads directly to the required certification, the report says. So the grand jury recommended the county work with the university’s Environmental Studies chair to develop one.
Creating that curriculum may be easier said than done, according to SSU professor Laura Watt, the Environmental Studies department chair.
“The reality of curriculum development at SSU is that it’s tied pretty closely with the expertise of the tenure-track faculty in that department — and we have no one on staff with (Environmental) Health and Safety expertise,” Watt said in an email. “And tenure-track hires are still very few and far between on our campus. So I do not see it being possible to develop the kind of certificate that seems to be called for in the near future.”
Additionally, the state requirements for environmental health specialists are geared more toward people who studied natural sciences rather than environmental studies, according to SSU professor Jeff Baldwin, chair of the Geography and Global Studies department, which is merging with Environmental Studies.
And several universities in the state already offer programs that prepare students for environmental health specialist certifications, Baldwin said.
“In my opinion, SSU has scant resources available to develop a certification program which would duplicate these already (extant) efforts elsewhere,” he wrote in an email.
California does have schools with approved programs that get students ready to take the environmental health specialist exam, Sosko said. But those colleges are located either in Southern California or the Central Valley, she said.
That’s why Sosko is among a group of environmental health officials working with California State University, East Bay to set up a similar program there. An internship requirement would be included in the program, she said.
July 24, 2017
The Press Democrat
By J.D. Morris