Photo: Skokie Environmental Health Officer Lillian LaSanta conducts a site inspection as part of the Village’s efforts to reduce the rat population. (Photo by Rich Cahan.)
Meet Lillian LaSanta, Village of Skokie environmental health officer. Lillian works throughout the Village to mitigate environmental issues impacting public health, with her efforts focused on rodent control. (View photos of Lillian conducting an inspection.)
How long have you worked for the Village of Skokie?
Since 2012. Prior to that I worked in environmental consulting, assessing commercial properties and helping remedy environmental issues.
What does an environmental health officer do?
Many certified public health departments have an environmental health officer position. My job is to ensure properties are following the Village code. I also work with residents and property owners to identify and address any environmental health issues.
Why is it important?
Having clean, safe and well-maintained properties supports a healthier community for everyone.
What happens when residents report a rodent issue to the Village?
Village staff are the first to visit the property. Staff conduct an initial site visit to identify rat burrows as well as any property maintenance issues that might be encouraging rodents. If rat burrows are found, Village staff mark the entrances with spray paint and apply bait. We then provide the location to our contractor (Platinum Pest Solutions), which visits the location regularly to track rat activity and treat the active rat burrows until rat activity is no longer observed.
We also notify property owners of any environmental health code issues, notify our neighborhood services division of any observed property standards violations and conduct follow-up visits to ensure that the environmental health issues are addressed.
How is the Village expanding its rodent control efforts?
Suburbs throughout Chicago have reported an increase in rat activity after our recent mild winters. Right now in Skokie, we’re piloting a new rodent control device that uses carbon dioxide (CO2) to deprive rat burrows of oxygen. We’re testing it at several locations to see if it’s effective. The Village is also hiring two additional part-time environmental health workers to enhance our response to rodent reports.
What can residents do to help?
Controlling the rat population is a partnership. First, we ask that residents report any issues as soon as they come to your attention. The best and quickest way to report issues is to visit skokie.org’s Rat Control Program page and complete the online form.
Baiting is only 20 percent of the solution. The other 80 percent is the responsibility of each property owner by addressing property issues, like removing overgrown vegetation, and eliminating sources of food, water and shelter.
What do you most like about your job?
Public service is all about customer service. Meeting with residents and explaining our inspection and treatment process is very helpful. And when we work together to solve a problem, getting a “thank you” email or call makes my day.
About ‘Skokie Snapshot:’ Local photographer Richard Cahan, a Skokie native who served as the photo editor for the Chicago Sun-Times for 16 years, will periodically be capturing Village operations through his lens.