PO Box 88 ~ Glendale Springs, North Carolina 28629 ~ Phone (336) 982-2691 ~ Fax (336) 982-2954 ~ Email:


September 1, 2010

Carole Troxler, Clean Air Now (CAN) (336) 263-5534

Catherine Mitchell, Citizens for a Healthy Environment (CHE) (704) 573-6902

Sue Dayton, Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) (336) 525-2003

Citizens to demand medical waste incinerators abide by new EPA rules by 2012
League Chapters say 4 years too long to wait for cleaner air

Members of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League’s two chapters, Citizens for a Healthy Environment (CHE) and Clean Air Now (CAN), will testify at a public hearing sponsored by the NC Environmental Management Commission (EMC). The hearing will take place on Sept 7th at 7 p.m. at the University of North Carolina Greensboro Campus, Moore Humanities & Research Administration, Spring Garden Street, Bldg. 246, Rm. #1215, Greensboro, NC, 27412.

The public hearing will focus on the state’s implementation of new rules issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for medical waste incinerators. Changes to the rules include stricter standards for air pollutants, removal of the exemption for emissions from by-pass events, and requiring better recycling and segregation of medical waste.

The federal government has given medical waste incinerators until 2014 to come into compliance with the new rules. The EMC will be making a decision on when medical waste incinerators in NC will be required to comply with the new EPA rules.

At the EMC hearing, members of the League’s CHE chapter will present comments on the BMWNC medical waste incinerator, located in Matthews, Mecklenburg County, NC. Members of the League’s CAN chapter will be presenting comments at the hearing on the Stericycle medical waste incinerator located in Graham, Alamance County, NC.

Carole Troxler, a member of CAN explained, “We’ve waited eleven years since the U.S. Court of Appeals remanded the present rules back to the EPA on the grounds that the rules were too lax. Now that the EPA has finally come through with new rules for medical waste incinerators, we shouldn’t have to wait another four years when the state has the power to cut it to two.”

Recent stack tests show that both incinerators are releasing air pollutants over the new EPA standards. The BMWNC medical waste incinerator is releasing dioxins and furans 12.6 times, mercury 3.5 times, and hydrogen chloride 11.5 times the new EPA standards for air pollutants. The Stericycle medical waste incinerator is releasing mercury 10.6 times and lead 5.6 times the new standards. Pregnant women, infants and children are at special risk from exposure to air toxics such as lead, mercury and dioxins.

CHE Chair Catherine Mitchell said, “For years residents of Matthews have endured falling ash, terrible odors, and fumes from the BMWNC medical waste incinerator. Dioxins and furans, in particular, are being emitted over 1,200-percent over what the new limits allow. The EPA’s new standards for air pollutants will substantially reduce these emissions and create a far safer environment for area residents. This needs to be addressed sooner, not later.”

This past April the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners drafted a resolution that was unanimously passed by Commissioners calling for all medical waste incinerators in NC to come into compliance with the new EPA rules by 2012 instead of 2014.

The Mecklenburg County Air Quality has firmly endorsed the resolution. In addition, twelve local governments have called for stricter standards for medical waste incinerators two years earlier than federal law requires.

In addition to early implementation of the new rules for medical waste incinerators, the League and CAN and CHE members are calling for:

A prohibition on the burning of plastics and paper which results in the dangerous formation of dioxins. Medical waste incinerators purposely burn plastics and paper to save on fuel costs. Dioxins have been linked with breast cancer, birth defects, immune system disorders, reproductive problems, endometriosis and heart disease.

The immediate removal of an exemption in the current rules concerning releases of uncontrolled emissions known as by-pass events. During the first 6 months of 2010, the Stericycle medical waste incinerator recorded over 5 hours of by-pass events. Under the new rules by-pass events will no longer be exempt and will be treated as violations.

A requirement for continuous monitoring of air pollutants including metals (such as lead and mercury), dioxins/furans, hydrogen chloride and particulate matter. The current rules require medical waste incinerators to perform a stack test once per year to determine levels of air pollutants being released. Emissions from Stericycle’s two incinerators are currently tested only once every other year.

A prohibition on burning dental waste at the BMWNC medical waste incinerator. In 2005 the NC DENR Division of Air Quality issued a rule requiring Stericycle to segregate dental waste from medical waste to reduce harmful mercury emissions that can impact human health and contaminate rivers, lakes, streams and water supplies. This same rule needs to be implemented at BMWNC.

Unannounced inspections of medical waste incinerators on a monthly basis. This past March inspectors from Mecklenburg County's Air Quality paid a surprise visit to the BMWNC medical waste incinerator and found smoke belching from the facility, a nasty odor in the air and shoddy record-keeping. All were violations of the incinerator's permit.

The League and both chapters are actively advocating that BMWNC and Stericycle switch to more environmentally friendly methods for disposing medical waste. Alternatives such as autoclaving and microwaving are state-approved methods for the majority of medical waste, and Stericycle has replaced incinerators with autoclaves in three other states.

According to Sue Dayton, community organizer for the League, Stericycle can easily afford the upgrades needed for compliance. She said, “For the quarter that ended June 30, 2010, Stericycle earned $54,000,000 on sales of $348,000,000.[1] Stericycle obviously has the financial wherewithal to comply with the new EPA rules by 2012. Now it’s up to the members of the EMC to take appropriate steps to further protect our air, health, and environment from medical waste incinerators.”

For more information contact Sue Dayton at (336) 525-2003 or