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HomeNewsArchivesMEDICAL INCINERATORS MUST UPGRADE OR CLOSE

MEDICAL INCINERATORS MUST UPGRADE OR CLOSE

Dec. 12, 2001 – If the territory's major medical facilities don't do what's needed to meet more stringent emission requirements for their incinerators, the federal Environmental Protection Agency will shut them down next year, a V.I. government official says.
Hollis Griffin, director of environmental enforcement for the Planning and Natural Resources Department, said that Saturday is the target date for the St. Thomas and St. John hospitals and the St. John clinic to start retrofitting their incinerators to bring them up to federal standards.
The facilities were supposed to apply to begin the work by July 15, 2000. "None have applied," Griffin said.
He said they must have the updated incinerators up and running by July 15, 2002, and will then have until Sept. 15 to do troubleshooting.
Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Dean Plaskett said the permits allow the hospitals and the clinic to burn radiological, nuclear and toxic waste, along with plastics and other hazardous materials under controlled and monitored conditions.
Thomas Robinson, chief executive officer at Juan F. Luis Hospital on St. Croix, said he would have to check on the status of that hospital's incinerator. He was not able to get that information on Wednesday.
Robinson also is acting CEO for Roy L. Schneider Hospital on St. Thomas until a new chief executive officer is appointed. He did not have information on that hospital's incinerator, either.
Erica McDonald, administrator at Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center on St. John, said she just learned Wednesday about the new emission rules and the timeline for their implementation. However, she said plans already are under way to upgrade the health center's incinerator. "We're not going to have any problem meeting the timeline," she said.
No one could be reached for comment at the EPA office on St. Thomas.
The incinerator issue came to light after Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole sent out a press release on Monday stating that Luis Hospital and the St. John clinic do not have current permits to operate incinerators. Griffin said Wednesday that the hospitals are allowed to continue operating their incinerators on their expired permits for the time being.
Griffin said that Luis Hospital is operating on the conditions of its expired permit while the hospital negotiates memorandums of understanding with the island's physicians, veterinarians and other medical-waste generators to incinerate their waste. Its two-year permit expired in June 2000.
He said Schneider Hospital has a current three-year permit which will expire next September.
He said that a permit for the Myrah Keating Smith Clinic was approved in September 1997, but no one ever picked it up or paid for it. It was a two-year permit that expired in September 1999, he said.
McDonald, who was not working at the clinic in 1999, said she understands from Planning and Natural Resources that an administrative assistant called the clinic when the permit expired in 1999, and that she is trying to find out who got the message. "They didn't follow up to make sure we knew," she noted.
Annual permits cost a flat fee of $50 or else $10 a ton, whichever is greater, Griffin said. Essentially, he said, "the fee is assessed based on the amount of pollution" generated by the incineration.
Griffin said Planning and Natural Resources has switched from two-year to three-year permits. Although the St. Croix and St. John facilities have permit problems, he said, PNR staff have continued to inspect those incinerators at least once a year, as required by the EPA.
At the latest Schneider Hospital inspection, by PNR and EPA staff last March 13, no problems were found.
At the most recent Luis Hospital inspection, on Oct. 2, PNR inspectors found broken waste scales, inadequate operator training, unmet reporting requirements and unsatisfactory operating conditions. "They are being addressed," Robinson said of those problems.
At the last Myrah Keating Smith inspection, on March 24, inspectors found that record keeping and reporting were deficient and that the incinerator operator was not properly trained.
However, McDonald said she never received a written report outlining the deficiencies. She said she understands the inspector gave a verbal report to the clinic's maintenance man, but the problems did not reach her ears. "You need to tell the manager," she commented.
Cole's press release stated that residents living near Luis Hospital have complained for years of odors from its incinerator. Griffin said that PNR records show three complaints and that investigations found no evidence of odors.
The senator also charged that PNR has no information on ambient air quality. However, Plaskett said in in his own subsequent press release that his department does test ambient air quality. The term refers to testing the air in the general area of a pollution source, not just at the immediate site where the pollution is generated.
Cole suggested that the St. Croix hospital was incinerating materials such as medical infectious waste and plastics, which he said could cause cancer under certain conditions. Plaskett in response called it "irresponsible and inflammatory for the senator to suggest that DPNR is responsible for poisoning of the public."

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Dec. 12, 2001 - If the territory's major medical facilities don't do what's needed to meet more stringent emission requirements for their incinerators, the federal Environmental Protection Agency will shut them down next year, a V.I. government official says.
Hollis Griffin, director of environmental enforcement for the Planning and Natural Resources Department, said that Saturday is the target date for the St. Thomas and St. John hospitals and the St. John clinic to start retrofitting their incinerators to bring them up to federal standards.
The facilities were supposed to apply to begin the work by July 15, 2000. "None have applied," Griffin said.
He said they must have the updated incinerators up and running by July 15, 2002, and will then have until Sept. 15 to do troubleshooting.
Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Dean Plaskett said the permits allow the hospitals and the clinic to burn radiological, nuclear and toxic waste, along with plastics and other hazardous materials under controlled and monitored conditions.
Thomas Robinson, chief executive officer at Juan F. Luis Hospital on St. Croix, said he would have to check on the status of that hospital's incinerator. He was not able to get that information on Wednesday.
Robinson also is acting CEO for Roy L. Schneider Hospital on St. Thomas until a new chief executive officer is appointed. He did not have information on that hospital's incinerator, either.
Erica McDonald, administrator at Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center on St. John, said she just learned Wednesday about the new emission rules and the timeline for their implementation. However, she said plans already are under way to upgrade the health center's incinerator. "We're not going to have any problem meeting the timeline," she said.
No one could be reached for comment at the EPA office on St. Thomas.
The incinerator issue came to light after Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole sent out a press release on Monday stating that Luis Hospital and the St. John clinic do not have current permits to operate incinerators. Griffin said Wednesday that the hospitals are allowed to continue operating their incinerators on their expired permits for the time being.
Griffin said that Luis Hospital is operating on the conditions of its expired permit while the hospital negotiates memorandums of understanding with the island's physicians, veterinarians and other medical-waste generators to incinerate their waste. Its two-year permit expired in June 2000.
He said Schneider Hospital has a current three-year permit which will expire next September.
He said that a permit for the Myrah Keating Smith Clinic was approved in September 1997, but no one ever picked it up or paid for it. It was a two-year permit that expired in September 1999, he said.
McDonald, who was not working at the clinic in 1999, said she understands from Planning and Natural Resources that an administrative assistant called the clinic when the permit expired in 1999, and that she is trying to find out who got the message. "They didn't follow up to make sure we knew," she noted.
Annual permits cost a flat fee of $50 or else $10 a ton, whichever is greater, Griffin said. Essentially, he said, "the fee is assessed based on the amount of pollution" generated by the incineration.
Griffin said Planning and Natural Resources has switched from two-year to three-year permits. Although the St. Croix and St. John facilities have permit problems, he said, PNR staff have continued to inspect those incinerators at least once a year, as required by the EPA.
At the latest Schneider Hospital inspection, by PNR and EPA staff last March 13, no problems were found.
At the most recent Luis Hospital inspection, on Oct. 2, PNR inspectors found broken waste scales, inadequate operator training, unmet reporting requirements and unsatisfactory operating conditions. "They are being addressed," Robinson said of those problems.
At the last Myrah Keating Smith inspection, on March 24, inspectors found that record keeping and reporting were deficient and that the incinerator operator was not properly trained.
However, McDonald said she never received a written report outlining the deficiencies. She said she understands the inspector gave a verbal report to the clinic's maintenance man, but the problems did not reach her ears. "You need to tell the manager," she commented.
Cole's press release stated that residents living near Luis Hospital have complained for years of odors from its incinerator. Griffin said that PNR records show three complaints and that investigations found no evidence of odors.
The senator also charged that PNR has no information on ambient air quality. However, Plaskett said in in his own subsequent press release that his department does test ambient air quality. The term refers to testing the air in the general area of a pollution source, not just at the immediate site where the pollution is generated.
Cole suggested that the St. Croix hospital was incinerating materials such as medical infectious waste and plastics, which he said could cause cancer under certain conditions. Plaskett in response called it "irresponsible and inflammatory for the senator to suggest that DPNR is responsible for poisoning of the public."