Government Cites Memorial Sloan-Kettering for RCRA Violations

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has cited Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City for violating numerous hazardous waste management requirements.

The agency wants full compliance and $214,420 in penalties for the violations.

"Hospitals and healthcare facilities must consider the proper handling of hazardous waste an integral part of their mandates to protect people's health," said EPA Region 2 Administrator Jane M. Kenny.

In particular, she said, chemotherapy waste is an especially toxic waste produced by many medical facilities. Hazardous waste regulations are in place to help to ensure that facilities like Sloan-Kettering do not release these or other toxic chemicals into the environment.

EPA discovered violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) at Sloan- Kettering during a March 2003 inspection. They included improper storage and disposal of chemotherapy and dental solid wastes, as well as a general failure to determine whether they were hazardous wastes. Sloan-Kettering has 30 days to respond to the complaint.

In 2002, EPA started the Hospital and Healthcare Initiative to help hospitals and healthcare facilities comply with environmental regulations as part of a larger EPA voluntary audit policy. The agency established the policy to encourage prompt disclosure and correction of environmental violations, safeguarding people's health and the environment. Many hospitals and healthcare facilities were not aware of their responsibilities under various environmental laws or had failed to implement effective compliance strategies.

As part of the initiative, EPA Region 2 sent letters to 480 facilities in New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and held free workshops to help hospitals comply. In addition, the agency established a Web site that provides information about their duties under the law, and warned hospitals that EPA inspections of their facilities - with risk of financial penalties - were imminent.

Hospitals can participate in EPA's voluntary self-audit program, in which they investigate and disclose environmental violations to EPA and, if certain conditions are met, receive a partial or complete reduction in financial penalties. To date, 14 healthcare organizations have entered into voluntary self-audit disclosure agreements with EPA. Meanwhile, EPA is continuing its inspections of healthcare facilities.

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