September 28th, 2009

Messy problem

By Kelley Luckstein

Early this month, Loyola University Health System took its incinerator offline just days before the Environmental Protection Agency issued a new rule that will require medical-waste processors to make expensive upgrades that further reduce incinerator emissions

 

While Loyola’s move—mandated by a 2005 state law requiring all Illinois hospitals to shut down their incinerators—was years in the making, the timing couldn’t have been more fortuitous for the 507-bed provider in Maywood. John Scanlon, director of physical plant and grounds for Loyola, said the EPA’s new technology requirement would have been cost-prohibitive since the provider processes a relatively small amount of waste compared with commercial waste companies. “We looked at the new standards, and I don’t think the technology exists to get emissions that low,” Scanlon said. “I think this will be the nail in the coffin” for hospital incinerators.

 

While the possibility of banishing on-site hospital incinerators is appealing to environmentalists, and many healthcare providers as well, the EPA’s rules are likely to cause further contraction of an already downsized medical-waste processing industry and force hospitals to further consider how they will manage their garbage…

 

Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., also has taken steps to comply. “Mayo Clinic supports reducing emissions,” wrote Mayo spokesman Karl Oestreich, in an e-mail sent by another Mayo spokeswoman. “But we believe the proposed limits are unattainable without significant financial investment and will result in very little actual environmental gain. In the interest of not placing an additional financial burden on healthcare for a relatively small environmental gain, Mayo had asked for reconsideration of the proposed rule. Still, last year, Mayo did make the commitment to comply with these new limits,” Oestreich wrote.

 

Modern Healthcare by Shawn Rhea, 09/28/09

Tags: Facilities, hospital incinerators

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