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Additional biowaste uncovered at Monsour

| Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012,

The state Department of Environmental Protection will hire a contractor to remove more medical waste discovered at the abandoned Monsour Medical Center in Jeannette after another search on Monday turned up used syringes and broken slides holding human tissue, strewn about its former morgue.

DEP spokesman John Poister said that whoever was in charge of the building when it closed in 2006 will have to pay the cleanup costs, estimated so far at $15,000 to $20,000.

That number will increase when a contractor is hired under an emergency contract.

“Someday down the line, the responsible party will be identified and have to do something with the building,” Poister said. “We will go after them for the total cost incurred for the cleanup. We have regulatory power to see they foot the bill.”

“It's progress,” city attorney Scott Avolio said. “The building coming down has to be the ultimate goal.”

Inspectors returned to Monsour on Monday at the request of city officials, who discovered the medical waste during a search earlier this month.

Inspectors found eight, one-gallon containers filled with used “sharps” and glass slides that pathologists used to test tissue samples taken from patients during treatment.

Sharps are devices used to puncture or penetrate skin, including syringes and other blades.

Sharps and the glass slides are considered biohazards.

“We're doing it because it is glass, and somebody could cut themselves. It's lying on the floor and should be cleaned up,” Poister said.

He suspects more waste remains in locked cabinets and offices but said the state has no authority to break the locks because the former hospital is private property.

The state initially inspected Monsour in December 2010 and removed biohazardous material and medical waste that was left behind when the facility was closed.

The DEP made two subsequent visits after trespassers ransacked the interior.

Poister said the debris was found in areas that inspectors would not ordinarily search, such as the area that housed administrative offices.

Poister said inspectors found other potential health hazards inside the structure.

“Mold has taken over some of the rooms,” he said. “There's nothing we can do about that. It's there. It's pervasive in a number of rooms in the building.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that prolonged exposure to molds can cause health problems, regardless of the type of mold.

Excessive exposure can cause breathing problems, eye and skin irritations and fever, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or at rgazarik@tribweb.com.

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