UPMC, Allegheny General likely to be penalized by DEP for medical waste disposal violations
By Melissa Daniels
Published: Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, 11:33 p.m.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection likely will penalize two Pittsburgh-based hospital systems for violating laws that govern medical waste disposal, a state spokesman said on Thursday.
The agency determined UPMC and Allegheny General Hospital, owned by Allegheny Health Network, violated the state's Solid Waste Management Act when unsterilized medical waste from the facilities was dumped in a Waste Management landfill in Monroeville on several occasions in recent months.
UPMC Shadyside had nine violations of the waste management act from October through January, according to DEP. Allegheny General had seven violations from December through January.
In identical notices of violation sent to both hospitals on Feb. 14, DEP Field Operations Supervisor Paul Minor wrote that the hospitals should “immediately review your handling procedures” and cease any further unsterilized shipments to unauthorized facilities.
State law prohibits hospitals from disposing of medical waste in a landfill unless the waste is sterilized.
John Poister, a DEP spokesman, said civil penalties could be issued once the state is “assured that there are procedures in effect that will prevent medical waste getting to landfills in the future.” Fines, he said, “are likely in this case.”
Dan Laurent, spokesman for Allegheny Health Network, said the seven-hospital system has completed a re-education initiative on waste disposal with its approximately 17,000 employees to prevent more incidents.
“We believe our existing waste disposal protocols are effective if strictly followed, and have taken this opportunity to remind our employees about the importance of doing so,” Laurent said.
Gloria Kreps, a UPMC spokeswoman, said, “We have continued to work very closely with local DEP officials to assure that regulated medical waste is appropriately disposed. Additionally, we have revised some of our processes, educated our staff, and will remain vigilant about our waste stream operations.”
DEP and hospital officials plan to meet in the next two weeks to review disposal procedures.
The violations consisted of blood bags, surgical sponges and possible human tissue in red biohazard bags contained in trucks from the hospitals. A Monroeville resident tipped off the DEP on Dec. 17, which investigated and contacted the hospitals. More waste showed up in late December and early January, including a box of syringes.
Melissa Daniels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8511 or email@example.com.
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