Environmental Health

Our environment affects our health. If parts of the environment, like air, water or soil become polluted, it can lead to health problems. For example, asthma attacks can result from pollutants and chemicals in the air, home or workplace. Some environmental exposures are a part of the natural world, like radon in the soil. Others result from human activities, like lead from paint and asbestos or mercury from mining or industrial use.

The Upper Missouri District Health Unit (UMDHU) works to protect your health by monitoring environmental contaminants and their related diseases, studying the impact of these contaminants on human health, and informing the public about how to best protect their health from harmful pollutants. We provide trustworthy and timely information that helps others take action. UMDHU programs also promote health and help prevent environmental pollution by supporting sound community development policies and by establishing and enforcing requirements for clean water, waste management, safe food and drugs, and radiation safety.

For more information regarding environmental health, contact the Williston office at 774-6400 or 1-877-572-3763.

Burn Permits

What to Know About Burn Permits

Burn Permit information can be found at the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality
UMDHU does the burn permits for Divide, McKenzie, Mountrail and Williams Counties. Once you have your burn permit application completed and signed by the fire chief for your area please submit to the following email addresses.,,

Food Poisoning

What to Do If You Suspect You Have Food Poisoning.

Symptoms to look for: vomiting, 6 bouts or more of diarrhea, chills, bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, and fever.

First thing is to see your doctor and make sure you tell him/her that you suspect food poisoning. Your doctor should then test for an organism.

One thing to remember is that it is very rarely the last thing you ate that made you ill. Typically it takes anywhere from 12 hours to 14 days for symptoms to develop. A complete food history would go back over four days of what you have eaten. It would be a good idea to try and get that written down as soon as you suspect food poisoning.

You should also contact your local public health unit. If you are in McKenzie, Williams, Mountrail or Divide counties that would be the Upper Missouri District Health Unit at 774-6400 or 1-877-572-3763.


Lead is a nonessential metal. Lead in the body is unnatural. Lead poisoning results from the consumption of lead in some form.

Children, with normal hand-to-mouth activity, ingest substantial amounts of lead from household dust when deteriorating lead-containing paint is present. It takes little lead to cause lead poisoning. A child can become severely lead poisoned by eating one milligram of lead-paint dust (60-80 ug/dl), which is equivalent to about three granules of sugar each day during childhood. To achieve blood-lead levels of 36 ug/dl, a child would have to eat just the equivalent of one granule of sugar a day. Lead-containing dust also may be inhaled by children through respiration.

Anyone who consumes lead may become poisoned. The highest incidence is in children between one and six years of age, but especially those between one and three. It is the best known environmental cause of illnesses in children. Children at the developmental stage of placing hands and objects in mouth are the most likely to consume lead if it is present in their environment. Please refer to the area under resources for links to more lead information.


Rabies is a disease caused by the rabies virus. Rabies is a disease that affects wild animals, domestic animals (like pets and livestock), and humans. Only mammals can get rabies. All mammals, including man are susceptible to rabies.

Early symptoms include irritability, headache, fever and sometime itching or pain at the site of exposure. The disease eventually progresses to paralysis, spasms of the throat muscles, convulsions, delirium and death. It is important to note that by the time any symptoms appear, rabies cannot be successfully treated. The time between exposure and the onset of symptoms is variable but is normally two to eight weeks in humans. Incubation periods of more than one year have been reported.

Rabies is almost always contracted by exposure to a rabid animal. The exposure is usually through a bite, but scratches and saliva contact with broken skin are also possible routes. Person-to-person transmission is extremely rare; however, precautions should be taken to prevent exposure to the saliva of the diseased person. Tissues from diseased individuals must not be used in transplant procedures.

Consult a health-care professional immediately if you think you have an exposure. If infected, the most effective rabies prevention is immediate, thorough cleansing of animal bite or scratch wounds with liberal amounts of soap and water. Once a health-care professional has determined that an exposure has occurred, treatment is administration by injection of rabies immune globulin (dosage dependent on weight) and four doses of human diploid cell rabies vaccine and is administered in the arm of days zero, three, seven, and 14 after exposure.

Exposure of a human to a rabid animal does not always result in rabies. If prevention treatment is obtained promptly following a rabies exposure, most cases of rabies will be prevented. Untreated cases will invariably result in death. All animal bites, regardless of whether the animal is available for rabies testing, should be evaluated by a health professional to determine if treatment is necessary.

For more information regarding rabies, contact:
  • ND Dept. of Health

  • Daphne Clark
    Protection Team Leader


Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Only smoking causes more deaths from lung cancer.  To bring awareness to the dangers of high radon levels, the EPA has again designated January as National Radon Action Month.

Testing in the home is the only way to know if radon levels are elevated. The Upper Missouri District Health Unit (UMDHU) periodically offers free radon test kits, while supplies last, (including prepaid return postage) through the “Radon Awareness and Promotion Program.” The winter months are the most accurate months for testing.

Radon is found naturally in soil and rock and gets into the air we breathe.  Smoking, combined with high radon levels in the home, greatly increases the risk of developing lung cancer. According to the North Dakota Department of Health, more than 60% of homes in ND have been found to have high levels of radon.
The kit is small, with a simple testing process that requires three days in the home for an accurate reading. A postage paid return envelope is included to return the test to the testing company. As a follow-up, the homeowner will receive a letter stating the radon level in the home, and/or can check online for results.

Septic Systems

The Upper Missouri District Health Unit is the agency with authority to permit septic systems and license installers in the four counties of Divide, McKenzie, Mountrail and Williams. Please see the area under resources for all applications, list of licensed contractors, our rules and regulations and tips for caring for your system.


Food Regulations

If you are going to have a food service facility within the city limits of Williston you will need to complete a plan review and a license application which can be found in the Resources section under 'Food Regulations'.

If you are going to have a food service facility outside of Williston City limits but within the counties of Williams, Mountrail, Divide and/or McKenzie Counties you will need to contact the North Dakota Department of Health Food and Lodging Division at 1-701-328-1291.

We would also advise you contact the city or county in which you plan to operate for other special permits you may need.


The Upper Missouri District Health Unit is the licensing and inspecting body for Tanning in the four counties of Divide, McKenzie, Mountrail and Williams. Please see the area under resources for regulations and an application for licensure.

Body Art

The Upper Missouri District Health Unit is the licensing and inspecting body for Body Art facilities in the four counties of Divide, McKenzie, Mountrail and Williams. Please see the area under resources for regulations and an application for licensure.


The Upper Missouri District Health Unit is the licensing and inspecting body for pool facilities in the four counties of Divide, McKenzie, Mountrail and Williams. Please see the area under resources for regulations and an application for licensure.


Ticks can spread disease when they are infected with certain bacteria, viruses or parasites.  Transmission to humans occurs through the bite of an infected tick.  People who spend time outdoors in tick-infested environments are at an increased risk of becoming infected.  Transmission usually occurs during the months of May through August, but cases have been reported during every month of the year.

Bed Bugs

Bedbugs are small, parasitic insects that feed on the blood of humans and animals while they sleep. Adult bedbugs are about ¼ inch in length. They are oval in shape, but are flattened from top to bottom. Bedbugs can be off-white in color to a light tan, deep brown or burnt orange. The host’s dark blood may be apparent in the body of the bug. Bedbugs cannot fly. Bedbugs can be found worldwide and have been reported more frequently in recent years. They most often are found in rooms where people sleep, and they generally hide near beds or other furniture used for sleeping.

Bedbugs generally bite during the night while hosts are asleep. While feeding, the bugs inject their saliva that contains an anesthetic and an anticoagulant into the skin, so their bites are painless. The sore caused by a bite looks similar to a mosquito bite. After a prolonged period of time, the bites may cause the host to have a mild to intense allergic reaction. Scratching the sores may lead to a secondary infection. Bite marks may take as long as 14 days to develop in some people.

Bedbugs hide in small crevices, may invade luggage, furniture, clothing, pillows, boxes and other objects and are spread when these are moved between apartments, homes and hotels. Used furniture (i.e., bed frames, mattresses, etc.) are at the greatest risk of storing bedbugs and their eggs. Bedbugs can pass also between adjoining apartments through holes in walls. Bedbugs can survive for months without feeding, so they may be present in apparently vacant and clean apartments. Bedbugs are able to spread as long as the host is living with them.

Many different types of insects resemble bedbugs. Samples of bugs should be collected and submitted to an entomologist for evaluation. Bedbugs should be suspected by physicians if residents complain of bites that occurred while they were sleeping. Sores may be treated with antihistamines and corticosteroids to reduce allergic reactions and inflammation. Bedbugs are not known to transmit any infectious diseases. People do not need to be excluded from work, schools or daycares for having bedbug lesions.

Managing bedbugs requires cleaning, room modifications and possibly insecticidal treatments to the residence. Clutter should be reduced at the residence. Infested rooms should be thoroughly cleaned. Infested surfaces should be scrubbed with a stiff brush to dislodge eggs. Vacuuming should be done to remove bedbugs from cracks and crevices. All possible hiding spots should be inspected. Mattress bags can be used to trap bedbugs so they eventually die. Holes or cracks in walls should be sealed. A pest control operator should be consulted regarding the situation. If you are a tenant, the property manager should be contacted.


Molds are simple, microscopic organisms found virtually everywhere, indoors and outdoors. Molds are an important part of the life cycle because they act to decompose organic matter. Molds can be found on plants, foods, dry leaves and other organic material. Because mold spores are very tiny and lightweight, they can travel through the air. Mold growths often can be seen in the form of discoloration ranging from white to orange and from green to brown or black.

When airborne mold particles, such as mold spores, are present in large numbers, they can cause allergic reactions, asthma episodes, infections and other respiratory problems for people. Mold also can cause structural damage to your home. Mold grows when environmental conditions are favorable. Those conditions include a food source, the right temperature and the presence of moisture.

Because molds will decompose a wide variety of materials and many molds thrive at room temperature, moisture control becomes the key factor to preventing indoor mold growth. Common moisture sources include: flooding, backed up sewers, leaky roofs, humidifiers, damp basements or crawl spaces, constant plumbing leaks, shower/bath steam and leaks, clothes dryers and combustion appliances (stove, furnace, water heater, etc.) not exhausted to the outdoors.

For more information: Mold