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EPA orders medical waste incinerator in Saipan to close

Release Date: 8/18/2005
Contact Information: Dean Higuchi, 808-541-2711

HONOLULU - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently ordered the Commonwealth Health Center located in Saipan, CNMI, to stop operating its medical waste incinerator in violation of federal Clean Air Act standards.

The Commonwealth Health Center has agreed to comply with the EPA's order by ceasing operations of its medical waste incinerator by January 2006 and putting an alternative medical waste treatment method into place. The EPA determined the incinerator was not in compliance with the requirements of the Clean Air Act.

"Medical waste incinerators must be operated in a way that protects the public health," said Deborah Jordan, the EPA's air division director for the Pacific Southwest region. "Adoption of an alternative treatment program that complies with federal requirements will reduce the threat of exposure to toxic air pollutants."

The EPA's order also requires the Commonwealth Health Center to:

- submit a compliance strategy addressing the progress of shutting down the incinerator, installing an onsite alternative waste treatment, and analyzing the options for transport of all waste to a medical waste treatment and disposal facility;

- provide to the EPA, a copy of its waste management plan which will include plans to separate solid waste from medical waste and identify other waste minimization opportunities and;

- complete the shut down of the incinerator by Jan. 30, and certify the final removal and proper disposal of the incinerator by Feb. 6.

The incinerator is used for destruction of medical waste from the hospital, as well as other solid waste, including medical records. It also receives medical records as well as medical waste from all medical clinics on the island.

In March 2005, EPA inspectors found that the incinerator had no air pollution control equipment and the hospital had not tested its incinerator to determine whether it was emitting air pollutants above federal limits. Testing is required for air pollutants such as dioxins/furans, hydrogen chloride, and mercury.

Inspectors also found the hospital failed to prepare a required plan to identify feasible ways to reduce the amount of waste burned and failed to comply with monitoring and record-keeping requirements. Both are required under federal regulations in order to monitor compliance with emission limits on air pollutants, and to minimize and reduce the amount of toxic emissions from incinerated waste.

All medical waste incinerators need to comply with federal regulations designed to reduce the amount of toxic emissions from incinerated waste. Medical waste can be a source of pollution from the pathological and biological waste, along with any chemicals produced during incineration from plastics and other medical waste materials.
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