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Health inspectors tally fair violations

Of all the characters at the Florida State Fair, Maggie Cangro probably was the dullest. She did not race pigs, exhibit snakes or do weird things under the big top. She never won a prize for her livestock.

About the only thing unusual about her was her silver clipboard. That is why people _ especially the people who run the fair _ paid attention to her.

Maggie Cangro is a health inspector.

For the 12-day run of the Florida State Fair, she was among dozens of county health and environmental inspectors who quietly made it their business to check on the business of others.

Now that the fair has ended, Cangro's work begins. Officials plan to compile reports detailing the health violations during the annual event.

Already, officials of the county's Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) said they are investigating reports of polluted water being discharged from concessions, the recreational vehicle park and the livestock arena.

"They have a lot of problems out there," said Leslie Schaugaard, enforcement coordinator for the water program at the EPC.

He said the inspectors tested water daily and will prepare a report on any violations within a few weeks.

Cangro, a coordinator with the county health department, said several recreational vehicles were cited for improperly dumping

waste water, and food concessions were warned about unsanitary conditions.

But Cangro and Schaugaard are quick to say they saw no major violations at the fair this year.

For Tom Umiker, the fair's executive director, inspectors and their reports are part of the job.

"It seems like there are a half-dozen people trying to regulate us," he said Friday. "Sometimes there seems to be some duplication."

Not only were health and environmental inspectors prowling around, but there also were checks on rides, games and the construction of the midway.

The Florida Fairs and Exhibitions agency sent an inspector, and Umiker hired a private company to look at ride safety. Members of the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office inspected all games to make sure they were not rigged.

But the most rigorous inspections came from the health and environment divisions. Nearly every day, at least two inspectors were at the fair. At times, as many as six investigators were on the scene.

Among the violations they found:

On the first day of the fair, all 200 food concessions were inspected and 40 were given warnings for health code violations. Cangro said most of the concessions were cited because they did not have proper hand-washing facilities and because food was not kept at the proper temperature. In one case, a pile of beef steaks had to be thrown out because it was not kept hot enough to prevent bacteria from growing. All of the violations, which she called common, were corrected.

Cangro said concessions were inspected almost daily.

In the RV park, many people were cited for dumping "gray water" on the ground. Gray water is the waste water from showers, sinks and dishwashers. A special holding tank must be used. One of the first people cited for improperly disposing wastewater: fair chairman Doyle Carlton. He quickly had his RV fixed, Cangro said.

Some food concessions dumped industrial waste, such as soapy water or cooking oils, into the sewage system, Schaugaard said. The number of instances has not yet been tallied. All such waste must be disposed of in a holding tank.

The EPC is looking into whether water runoff from manure piles in the livestock arenas might have contaminated storm water and ground water. Schaugaard said many residents who live near the fairgrounds complained about the stormwater runoff.

He said the fairgrounds had two major violations in 1989: They allowed improper dumping of waste water in the RV park during last year's State Fair and built a sewage collection system in the RV park without a permit last August. No action has been taken against the fair authority in either case, although the EPC could levy fines of up to $2,000.

Schaugaard said conditions seemed to have improved this year; there were fewer instances of dumping this year than last.

"A lot of the warnings have been very minor," Cangro said.

Fairgoers probably never noticed the inspectors, aside from their clipboards, quietly making notes, Cangro said.

"But the vendors did," she said.