Mounds of Improperly Dumped Medical Waste to Be Microwaved
SAN JOSE, California, May 17, 2007 (ENS) - Sanitec Industries, Inc. has been hired to dispose of medical waste and patients medical records improperly dumped in a San Jose area landfill last month. The company says over 100,000 pounds of medical waste was improperly dumped – several hundred times more than was reported.
Hundreds of pounds of confidential patient medical and financial records and files were included in the waste, and the dumping jeopardized patients' privacy, Sanitec said in a statement Wednesday.
The company said contact with the medical waste may have placed landfill and transportation workers at risk of injury and infection through needle pricks and exposure to infected blood and tissues.
In early April, a worker at the Guadelupe landfill in the Almaden area of San Jose discovered medical waste and confidential patient records and financial information that had been improperly dumped in the municipal landfill.
Information on the waste including letterhead, labels and serial numbers indicating that the waste came from four area hospitals and medical centers.
Acting in accordance with trauma scene containment regulations governing bio-hazardous waste spills, Guadelupe contracted with certified health waste clean-up firms, AllChem and Clean Harbors, both of which removed the waste to their respective facilities. There, the waste was weighed, sorted and labeled according to which hospital generated it, and loaded into three foot square lined boxes.
Each firm then contacted Sanitec to safely dispose of the medical waste and patient records in accordance with state, county and federal environmental regulations and privacy laws.
Sanitec is accomplishing this work using its patented Microwave Medical Waste Disinfection System which shreds waste into low volume unrecognizable matter and microwaves it to render it safe for landfill disposal.
Reports that medical records involved were limited to personally identifiable information on IV bags, ID bracelets, and prescription bottles, are not accurate, Sanitec said. "In fact, hundreds of pounds of sensitive patient medical records, including files and financial and insurance documents were present in waste removed from the landfill," the company said.
State and federal law requires these documents to be destroyed before disposal.
Kerr-McGee Spends $18M for Emissions Control in Colorado, Utah
DENVER, Colorado, May 17, 2007 (ENS) – Kerr-McGee Corp. will spend $18 million on pollution controls in the first comprehensive settlement under the Clean Air Act that will reduce toxic emissions and conserve natural gas at production facilities across Utah and Colorado.
The control measures and operational improvements are expected to reduce annual emissions of air pollutants by more than 2,500 tons in Utah and more than 3,000 tons in Colorado, the Justice Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, announced today.
Today’s settlement, filed in U.S. District Court in Denver, addresses alleged violations discovered at several of Kerr-McGee’s natural gas compressor stations located on the Uinta and Ouray Indian Reservation near Vernal, Utah, and in the Denver Julesburg Basin near Weld County, Colorado.
Kerr-McGee voluntarily disclosed a number of the violations, and has worked cooperatively with federal and state regulators to resolve them.
In addition to implementing pollution controls, the agreement requires Kerr-McGee to pay a $200,000 penalty, and spend $250,000 on environmental projects to benefit the areas in which the violations occurred.
Kerr-McGee will spend a total of $250,000 on two environmental projects. The money will be used to reduce dust emissions from roads that service oil and gas facilities in Utah, and to identify and retire vehicles that have higher emissions of air pollutants than newer vehicles in Denver. These older, high-emitting vehicles disproportionately contribute to the Denver area’s air quality problems.
Kerr-McGee will also conduct a study to increase natural gas recovery and reduce air emissions at five facilities in the Uinta Basin and five facilities in the Denver Basin.
The consent decree is subject to a 30-day comment period and final approval by the court. A copy of the consent decree is available on the Justice Department website at: http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.
EPA Puts Efficient Cars in the Fast LaneWASHINGTON, DC, May 17, 2007 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, is proposing criteria for certifying vehicles as clean and energy efficient. The agency intends the criteria to guide states that choose to allow such vehicles on high occupancy vehicle, HOV, lanes - even when the vehicles have only one occupant.
The proposal, which was required by The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, SAFETEA-LU, is designed to spur the purchase and use of vehicles that are better for the environment and energy security.
The proposal applies to cars, SUVs, vans and trucks below 8,500 pounds. To be eligible for the HOV exemption, these vehicles would be required to meet specifications for both low emissions and energy-efficiency.
To be considered low emission, EPA proposes that a vehicle would have to be certified to either the stringent federal Tier 2 bin 5 standard or cleaner or the equally stringent California LEV II standards.
To be considered energy efficient, EPA proposes that a vehicle would have to be either a dedicated alternative fuel vehicle, or a hybrid vehicle achieving 50 percent or better in-city fuel economy or 25 percent or better in combined city/highway fuel economy compared to a similar gasoline fueled vehicle.
Any changes to HOV programs as a result of this proposal would be implemented by the Department of Transportation and enforced by the individual states that choose to allow HOV exemptions.
States can opt to toughen EPA's criteria, but may not reduce them.
The SAFETEA-LU provision allowing states to adopt HOV exemptions is currently set to expire September 30, 2009.
Last Member of Illegal Wildlife Guide Ring SentencedCHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia, May 17, 2007 (ENS) - This week's sentencing of a Virginia man in a federal courtroom in Charlottesville, marked the close of an investigation of illegal guiding, outfitting, and hunting on public lands in New Mexico.
The investigation resulted in the prosecution in federal and state courts of 21 people, including the owner of a New Mexico outfitting company, a Virginia taxidermist, and several professional hunting guides and numerous hunter-clients.
The case has been open since 2003, when a tip was received by a Virginia Game Warden.
Mike Archuleta, the final defendant in the case, pled guilty to one count of a Lacey Act, Class A Misdemeanor charge. Archuleta is the owner and operator of Mark V. Outfitters and Sierra Taxidermy in Espanola New Mexico. His sentence included a condition of providing no outfitting or guiding services for five years.
The defendents were setting up an illegal businesses in which guides took out-of-state sportsmen on the Valles Caldera National Preserve and other public lands in New Mexico to shoot elk, mule deer, antelope, cougar, black bear, oryx and other big game, even though State laws prohibited such hunts.
Other violations included hunting without valid state hunting licenses, during closed seasons, without permits for protected government properties, from roadways and leaving game in the field to rot.
"This investigation disrupted a large-scale illegal guiding operation that was exploiting public resources for profit and greed," said Special Agent in Charge Nicholas Chavez, who oversees Service law enforcement operations in the Southwest.
"Wildlife is not meant to be commercialized for the monetary benefit of a few. Profiteering by providing illegal hunting opportunities was conducted at the expense of New Mexico's wildlife resources," Chavez said.
Charges filed included violations of New Mexico hunting laws, the federal Lacey Act, false statements, felon in possession of firearms, taxidermy permit violations, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and Conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act.
Under the Lacey Act, passed in 1900 with the purpose of providing additional protection to wildlife, it is a federal offense to take, possess, transport, sell, import, or export wild animals from their natural environment with the intention to make a profit.
Nine defendents pled guilty to 10 felonies in state or federal courts in New Mexico or Virginia.
Sentences range from a period of probation to 12 months imprisonment. There were a total of $51,500 in fines, $59,350 in restitution, 36 months imprisonment, 42 years of probation, and forfeiture of 80 wildlife items, one truck, and 11 firearms because of the investigation, law enforcement officials said.
The wildlife items confiscated include bear rugs, full body cougar mounts, elk antlers, head and shoulder elk mounts, antelope and oryx horns, and mule deer antlers.
Penalties also include a prohibition of any hunting for nine subjects for a period of 24 years combined. All of the felony convictions carry a life-long prohibition from hunting with firearms.
The restitution funds were given to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for conservation efforts in New Mexico and in Virginia.
To report poaching or wildlife crime call Operation Game Thief at 1-800-432-4263.
Columbia University Held Carbon Neutral CommencementNEW YORK, New York, May 17, 2007 (ENS) - Columbia University offered a carbon neutral commencement to graduates and their families this year.
The university will offset the estimated carbon dioxide emissions at its May 16 commencement through purchasing credits towards projects that save the equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from going into the atmosphere.
Columbia is buying the credits through Carbonfund.org, a non-profit organization whose focus is on reducing carbon emissions through credits applied to domestic and international projects for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The projects are certified by third parties to verify the emissions savings.
Columbia’s effort will offset the estimated 4,649 metric tons of carbon dioxide that will be produced by the air, auto and local travel to and from Columbia’s commencement, as well as the energy used during the main ceremony.
The amount is equivalent to 1,006 passenger cars not driven for one year, or 10,812 barrels of oil. The tonnage figure was developed using University data to determine where families are traveling from and the likely mode of transportation, as well as the energy expended at the Morningside campus for the day’s event.
Making Commencement 2007 carbon neutral was a broad effort within the University, involving input from Student and Administrative Services, the Global Roundtable on Climate Change, Facilities, and Columbia’s Office of Environmental Stewardship.
Senior Executive Vice President Robert Kasdin remarked, "This initiative is symbolic of Columbia's growing commitment to responsible environmental stewardship in its ongoing operations."
The University recently established the Office of Environmental Stewardship, and is undertaking a range of sustainability initiatives to minimize its footprint on the environment.
Washington Starts Clean Up of Three Million Junk Tires
OLYMPIA, Washington, May 17, 2007 (ENS) - The Washington state Department of Ecology has awarded a contract to a team of companies to clean up tire piles in four counties.
Tire Disposal and Recycling, a Portland-based business, and L&S Tire from Lakewood and Spokane will remove some 381,700 tires from 16 sites under the $632,000 contract.
"These abandoned tire piles pose a threat to public health and safety, as well as the environment," said Cullen Stephenson, manager of the Department of Ecology's Solid Waste Program.
"They can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes, nesting places for rodents or present a fire hazard. There will be lots of activity this year to begin ridding the state of the three million discarded tires marring our landscape," he said.
The state agency worked with health districts in Thurston, Lewis, Cowlitz and Jefferson counties to identify unauthorized tire piles in the region.
The cleanup contract began on May 9 and Work on all 16 sites is expected to be complete by September.
Storage of 800 or more scrap tires requires a state license as well as a solid waste handling permit. The Department of Ecology uses funds from the Waste Tire Removal Account established by the Legislature to clean up unauthorized tire piles in the state. Funding for the program comes from a $1 fee charged on each new replacement vehicle tire sold in Washington.
Tires will be removed and hauled to processing facilities in Portland or Lakewood and separated for reuse, recycling or disposal. Most will be burned for fuel.
In November 2005, Ecology issued a report identifying five million tires in 54 piles in 19 counties across the state. Since then, about two million have been removed, leaving about three million in the state to be cleaned up.