Environmental Health

From the cotton fields of Southampton County to the shores of the James River and the brink of Hampton Roads Harbor, Western Tidewater encompasses the diversity of simpler times as well as the fast lane of a high-speed world. So, whether you want to share a plate of collard greens and Smithfield Ham or savor broiled rockfish while catching the salt breeze at the mouth of the Nansemond our cuisines are as unique as our people. Your Western Tidewater Environmental Health Team is here to help make sure that great food and those mighty rivers stay healthy and safe.

The Western Tidewater Health District (WTHD) serves four localities which include the counties of Isle of Wight and Southampton and the cities of Suffolk and Franklin.  Interestingly, the City of Suffolk is the largest land area city in Virginia at 429 square miles and the City of Franklin is one of the smallest at 8.75 square miles. WTHD serves a population of approximately 160,000.

The Environmental Health (EH) program includes 17 staff in 4 district offices.  Major Environmental Programs include Food Safety, Onsite Sewage Disposal, Water Wells and Rabies Investigation. As part of the Food Safety program, we inspect many types of food establishments from school cafeterias to the largest restaurants. We also ensure food safety at your weekend fair or festival. Our staff inspects tourist establishments (hotels, motels, inns and bed and breakfast facilities). We also inspect summer camps, campgrounds, migrant labor camps and body art facilities. EH provides plan review, permits and inspections of private wells and onsite septic systems. Other important programs areas include investigations of environmental sources of lead (for children aged 6 or less with elevated blood lead levels), potential foodborne related illnesses, rabies prevention and general environmental complaint investigations. Our team also provides information and education regarding other environmental health risks. Some of the health education topics include tick-borne diseases, bedbugs and mosquito-borne diseases such as Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile Virus.  The EH department also works with many other agencies to protect and promote the health of all Virginians and our visitors.

Annually, your Environmental Health team reviews and inspects:

  • Over 400 permitted Food Establishments (such as restaurants, schools, daycare facilities, hospitals, nursing homes, mobile food trucks, etc.)
  • 30 Tourist Establishments (hotel, motel, inn or bed and breakfast)
  • Camps and Summer Camps
  • 25-30 Tourist Establishment Swimming Pools
  • 10 Migrant Labor Camps
  • 275-300 Onsite Sewage Systems
  • 225-250 Private Wells

Fee Charts for Environmental Health Services (FEES MAY CHANGE)

 Body Art (tattoo, body piercing) $1,800
 Body Art Plan Review $200
Food Establishments / Mobile Units $40
Food Establishments / Mobile Units Plan Review $40
 Temporary Food (calendar year) $40
 Hotel / Motel $40
 Hotel / Motel Plan Review $40
 Campgrounds $40
 Campgrounds Plan Review $40


 Certification letter with OSE/PE documentation, < 1,000 gpd $320
 Certification letter with OSE/PE documentation, > 1,000 gpd $1,400
 Construction permit for onsite sewage system only, < 1,000 gpd no OSE/PE documentation $425
 Construction permit for onsite sewage system only, < 1,000 gpd with OSE/PE documentation $225
 Combined well and onsite sewage system construction permit, < 1,000 gpd no OSE/PE documentation $725
 Combined well and onsite sewage system construction permit, < 1,000 gpd with OSE/PE documentation $525
 Construction permit for onsite sewage system only, > 1,000 with OSE/PE documentation $1,400
 Combined well and onsite sewage system construction permit, >1,000 with OSE/PE documentation $1,700
 Private well construction or abandonment permit, with or without OSE/PE/Well Driller documentation $300
 Closed-loop geothermal well system (one fee per well system) with or without OSE/PE/Well Driller documentation $300
 Alternative discharge system inspection fee $75
 Minor modification of an existing onsite sewage system with or without OSE/PE documentation $100
 Appeal before the Review Board $135
 Repair permit for an onsite sewage system, < 1,000 gpd without OSE/PE documentation $425
 Repair permit for an onsite sewage system, < 1,000 gpd with OSE/PE documentation $225
 Repair permit for an onsite sewage system, > 1,000 gpd with OSE/PE documentation $1,400
 Voluntary upgrade for an onsite sewage system, < 1,000 gpd with OSE/PE documentation $225
 Voluntary upgrade for an onsite sewage system, > 1,000 gpd with OSE /PE documentation $1,400
 Safe, adequate, and proper evaluation without OSE/PE/Installer/Operator documentation $150
 Safe, adequate, and proper evaluation with OSE/PE/Installer/Operator documentation $100

Payments in the office can only be accepted during the hours between 8:30am – 3:30pm, Monday-Friday.

For more about available services, fees, or other information, please call your local health department.

Food Safety Training

Food Safety Training is available online for food handlers and food managers at State Food Safety. Please call your local health department if you have questions.

Food Service Program

Inspection reports for all permitted food facilities in Virginia can be viewed at https://inspections.myhealthdepartment.com/virginia

Food Establishments/Mobile Units
In order to grant a permit, we must determine compliance with the Virginia Food Regulations. To do so, we perform a review and approval process on specific documentation prior to a pre-opening inspection. These documents include: the permit and plan review applications, a copy of the proposed menu, a copy of the establishment’s Certified Food Managers certificate(s), a copy of the establishment’s business license, architectural or computer-generated floor plans (to scale) of the establishment, equipment specifications, and all associated fees. Please note that a Certificate of Occupancy is required for newly constructed or change of use establishments.

Food Establishment Application

Food Establishment Plan Review

Foodborne Illness Investigation
Environmental Health Services responds to all reports of suspected foodborne illnesses implicating food sold or served in the Western Tidewater Health District. Signs and symptoms vary, but common symptoms include vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. Most cases of foodborne illness last between 24-48 hours. Symptoms generally appear between 2 to 36 hours after eating the suspected food. Most cases are isolated events and are not associated with large outbreaks; however, there are times the health department investigates outbreaks involving groups attending the same function. For additional information on foodborne illnesses, visit the CDC or FDA websites.

Our goal is to identify the foods responsible for the illness. Collecting accurate and complete information from the persons involved helps us do this. We also perform a thorough review to identify food handling practices that may have contributed to the illness. Not always, but sometimes it is even necessary to collect samples of the suspected food.

When reporting a suspected foodborne illness, the following information is important:

  • Contact information for the people that are ill.
  • Name and location of the facility where the suspected meal or food item was obtained.
  • Date and time the suspected meal consumed.
  • Onset of symptoms and description of symptoms,
  • A 72-hour food history (to include all foods and beverages consumed in the 3 days prior to the first sign of illness)

To file a complaint concerning a food related illness, please contact your local health department for assistance.  

Restaurant/Food Inspection Reports
All food establishments that serve the public must be permitted through the Virginia Department of Health. This requirement allows VDH and restaurant operators to collaborate in the safe handling of food from the kitchen to your plate. We all want to avoid getting sick! You can review inspection results from across Western Tidewater locations online: Western Tidewater Restaurant/Food Inspection Reports

Regulations and Applications

Temporary Food Events
Permits are issued for food vendors operating at a single event or celebration, such as a fair, carnival, or festival, and are governed by the Virginia Food Regulations. If the food is not prepared and handled in a sanitary manner, the public’s health may be at risk.

Please be aware that in order for the Health Department to review your food safety plan and prepare for the inspection of your event, all temporary event applications must be submitted ten (10) calendar days prior to the event.

Tourist Establishment and General Environmental Program
Annual and temporary campgrounds are permitted by the health department. They are periodically inspected while in operation to ensure public safety. Additional permits may be required for on-site food establishments, swimming pools and spas associated with the campground.

Tourist Establishments
Tourist Establishments include hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, summer camps and campgrounds. These facilities are inspected to determine compliance with health and safety laws governed by the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Additional permits may be issued for on-site restaurants, continental breakfasts, swimming pools and spas associated with these facilities.

Recreational Swimming Pools / Spas
Pools and spas associated with campgrounds, hotels or motels are inspected while in operation to ensure bather safety. Environmental Health Specialists conduct water sample tests, evaluate all pool safety equipment and ensure these facilities are properly constructed and maintained.

Marina Sanitation
The Commonwealth of Virginia has sanitary regulations for marinas and other boat moorings. The regulations establish minimum requirements for sewerage facilities to accommodate boaters and marina employees. The number of boat slips is a key factor in determining the size of the sewerage facility. The Division of Wastewater Engineering reviews the technical aspects of plans and specifications and works with the local health department to issue construction and operation permits for sewerage facilities. The Marine Resources Commission is notified when a certificate is issued or denied. Marine Resources in turn, evaluates and approves the location and construction of the marina itself. Once constructed, Our EH department inspects for compliance with the regulations to ensure proper sanitation and cleanliness of the facility and issues a permit for the marina’s operation.

Onsite Sewage and Well Program

On-site Septic Systems
Environmental Health Services oversees the design and construction of onsite sewage (septic) systems to ensure that the environment is protected. A permit may be required. The program includes:

Private Wells
Environmental Health reviews and issues permits for private wells.  This ensures wells are properly located a safe distance from potential sources of contamination.  The environmental review protects our drinking water and general groundwater supply.  Types of wells we inspect may include drinking water, irrigation, geothermal, and industrial.  Additional permitting requirements may be necessary if the proposed volume of water to be withdrawn exceeds 300,000 gallons per month.

Private Wells Links
Have you recently had your well water tested and want to know what the results mean? The Well Informed Virginia drinking water interpretation tool has been created to help private well owners and users in Virginia understand water test results.

Well Informed Virginia (vt.edu)

The Virginia Department of Health DOES NOT require testing or inspections in conjunction with the buying or selling of property with private wells.  However, during real estate transactions, questions often arise from buyers, sellers, and lenders.  In response, Office of Environmental Health Services is pleased to offer this FAQ sheet.

Real Estate Transaction FAQ

Rabies Control Program
Our Environmental Health team works closely with your local Animal Control to investigate potential rabies exposures to humans and their pets.
Exposure of humans to rabies occurs when the saliva of an infected animal enters the body through an open wound or mucous membrane, such as with an animal bite. An animal exposure can be a serious medical event, for which prompt evaluation and complete treatment is critical. Rabies is highly preventable if the vaccine is given early and as recommended. Unfortunately, without preventive treatment, by the time someone develops symptoms of rabies, there is no cure, and the disease is fatal in almost 100% of cases. The disease is also fatal in infected domestic dogs and cats that have not been vaccinated.
The Western Tidewater Health District, strongly emphasizes the following recommendations for residents to take in protecting their families and their pets from rabies:

  • If your pet has been in contact with an animal that might be rabid, contact your local health department or Animal Control.


  • Seek medical treatment promptly for any animal bite to ensure appropriate and timely evaluation and treatment. All animal exposures must be taken seriously.


  • Do not approach wild or stray animals, especially raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, cats, and dogs.


  • Ensure all pet dogs, cats and ferrets have current rabies vaccinations. Please consult your veterinarian, Animal Control, or the Health Department if you have any questions about pet vaccinations.


  • Confine your pets to your property.


  • Securely seal garbage containers with lids.


State law requires all dogs and cats four months or older to be vaccinated against rabies. 

Please check out this link full of valuable information regarding rabies.


Other Information

For available services or other information, please call your local health department.