Hospitals, doctors, dentists and others soon will have to obey new rules about the disposal of infectious waste such as discarded hypodermic needles and human and animal body parts, a state official said Wednesday.
Robert J. Mitrey, an associate sanitary engineer for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said the new rules are designed to prevent infectious medical waste from showing up in local dumps or along the shoreline.
Effective June 5, such waste will have to be carefully accounted for, labeled, hauled away by a licensed transporter and burned in an approved incinerator, Mitrey told about a dozen persons at a meeting sponsored by the the Hazardous Waste Advisory Council.
He said the rules were adopted after bags of medical waste were washed ashore on Long Island and in New Jersey. Despite those incidents, "there has been very little real concern about infectious waste in Western New York," Mitrey said.
Michael E. Hopkins, supervising public health engineer for the Niagara County Health Department, said two or three hypodermic needles, apparently used by diabetics, had been found along the Lake Ontario shoreline, and some needles were found in an alley in Niagara Falls, but they were not believed to have been infectious.
"Some undercover officers work for me, and they have made some investigations in Western New York, but there have been no prosecutions," Mitrey said.
The larger hospitals in Niagara and Erie counties operate their own approved incinerators, and many doctors and dentists may be able to arrange for the hospitals to dispose of any waste from their offices, Mitrey said. Others may have to contract with a licensed hauler to take their infectious waste to an approved commercial incinerator, but Mitrey said he did not know of any such commercial operations in New York State.
Everyone handling the waste must keep a record of it for at least three years, to show that it was transported and incinerated safely, he added.
Mitrey said the rules also could apply to nursing homes, medical laboratories, veterinarians and some university research centers, but not to individual patients who give themselves injections in their own homes.
Walter D. Garrow, chief of environmental safety at the Niagara Falls Sewage Treatment Plant and a member of the Hazardous Waste Advisory Council, was the moderator of Wednesday's discussion at the Earl W. Brydges Library.