BLUE RIDGE ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE LEAGUE
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
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
Leagues 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 states 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 Leagues CHE chapter will
present comments on the BMWNC medical waste incinerator, located
in Matthews, Mecklenburg County, NC. Members of the Leagues
CAN chapter will be presenting comments at the hearing on the
Stericycle medical waste incinerator located in Graham, Alamance
Carole Troxler, a member of CAN explained, Weve
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 shouldnt 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
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 EPAs 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
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
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
Stericycles 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
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
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
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.
Stericycle obviously has the financial wherewithal to comply with
the new EPA rules by 2012. Now its 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 firstname.lastname@example.org