Medical waste plant proposed

November 13, 1997

Medical waste plant proposed


Staff Writer

A subsidiary of a Louisiana-based company wants permission to build a plant where up to 75 tons of infectious medical waste, including body parts and used syringes, would be sterilized daily.

Tempico Mid-Atlantic LLC wants to build the proposed $4 million plant in the Washington County Business Park on Western Maryland Parkway near the interchange of Interstate 81 and U.S. 40.

The project has the backing of the Washington County Commissioners, who have signed a contract to sell the company six acres at the park, pending zoning approvals.


The Washington County Commissioners have scheduled a public hearing for Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. on whether to amend the county's solid waste plan, a step that must be taken before any waste facility can be built in the county.

The Washington County Board of Zoning Appeals would then have to approve a special exception for a medical waste processing facility, because it is not a principal permitted use in the county's zoning ordinance. The Maryland Department of the Environment also would have to issue a permit.

If the approvals are obtained, up to 25 trucks a day would haul medical waste to the plant, said Doyle Payne, a part-owner of the company.

The waste, in red bags, drums or other containers, would be placed on a conveyer belt that would carry it into a Rotoclave. The Rotoclave, patented by Tempico, rotates and grinds the waste while sterilizing it by using steam in a chamber pressurized at 50 pounds per square inch.

The sterilized material would be ground into a confetti-like fluff, resulting in an 85 percent reduction in volume.

That material would be taken by D.M. Bowman Trucking to a Lorton, Va., incinerator, where it would be used as a fuel to generate electricity.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said experts have assured the commissioners that the technology Tempico uses is safe and said the proposed site has the advantage of not being in a residential neighborhood.

Payne had tried to put his facility in Frederick and Howard counties without success. His lawyer, Robert J. Kresslein of Frederick, said the facility had run into zoning problems and concerns from nearby residents that trucks carrying medical waste might take shortcuts through their neighborhoods.

"The location that they looked at in Frederick was a residential neighborhood and the large trucks going through there were not going to work," Snook said.

The Washington County location would be a "very short, straight route from the interstate. They don't go by one house," Snook said.

Payne said part of his contract with the commissioners would give the 201 generators of medical waste in Washington County the same rate he gives his highest volume customer.

"They will be getting my best price, even if it's a box a day," he said.

Snook said the company would provide quality jobs, which would be "a step or two above warehousing."

Payne said initially 25 employees would treat about 25 tons of waste a day. Eventually, 50 employees would process 75 tons per day, he said.

There would be no emissions from the plant and the 3,000 gallons of sewage that would leave the plant each day would be sterile, Payne said.

A previous zoning appeal was withdrawn because of inadequate wording. The application said the operation was for "manufacturing of alternative boiler fuel from previously processed materials."

After objections from Washington County Attorney Richard Douglas that the wording was misleading, the application was withdrawn and will be resubmitted.

"Tempico does not want to leave the impression that it is attempting to `back-door' this application," Kresslein said.

The county's solid waste advisory board last week voted 4 to 1 to recommend approval of the project.

Joe Swope, a member of the advisory board, said he voted against the project because he didn't feel that all of his questions had been answered. For instance, he said, he wanted to know what would happen if there were a power outage at the plant.

Swope said he was impressed by the company's technology and agreed that the process was much cleaner than an incinerator.

Payne said the plant would have a number of safety features, including backup power and steam generation capability. He said Bowman refrigerator trucks would be available should a problem arise.

Dr. Robyn Gershon, a senior research associate at Johns Hopkins University's School of Public Health in Baltimore, said Tempico's technology is "the most advanced at this point and also the most tested."

Gershon said the Rotoclave technology was far cleaner and safer than incinerators.

Payne said 30 hospitals, most in the United States, use Rotoclaves to handle their waste.

With tougher EPA regulations governing incinerators, Gershon said she sees Rotoclave technology as the "wave of the future."

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