Medical waste treatment plant - Q&A

November 15, 1997

What is Tempico?

Tempico Mid-Atlantic LLC of Virginia Beach, Va., is a partially owned subsidiary of Tempico Inc., a Lousiana-based company that manufactures medical waste disposal equipment and equipment for paper mills.

The company said its technology has been used in hospitals in the United States and Spain since 1992.

The proposed Hagerstown facility would be their first regional medical waste treatment plant.

What medical waste could the facility accept?

If approved, Tempico's plant could accept all types of infectious medical waste, including body parts, used syringes, contaminated animal carcasses, and blood.

The list also includes:

* discarded vaccines;

* laboratory specimens;

* human and animal tissues, organs, body fluids, and excrement;


* "Any other waste materials generated in the diagnosis, treatment or immunization of humans or animals."

Noninfectious medical waste, such as IV bags and bottles and diapers, could also be treated.

Radioactive waste would not be accepted.

Where would the waste come from?

The waste would come from dentists' and doctors' offices, nursing homes, hospitals, medical labs and other generators within a couple of hundred miles from Hagerstown. The vast majority of the waste would be imported from outside the county. Washington County Hospital has no plans to use the treatment plant.

The hospital's incinerator burns 48 tons per month, about one-third of its capacity, according to spokesman John Costopoulos. It burns waste from the hospital, Robinwood Medical Center, and other hospital-owned facilities.

The 75 tons per day capacity would be enough to serve 46 hospitals the size of Washington County Hospital and the Robinwood center combined.

An estimated 10 trucks a day would bring waste to the facility at startup before ramping up to 25 trucks a day.

How would the plant work?

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.

There are no air emissions, according to the company.

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

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

How much will the jobs pay?

The company's part owner and managing partner W. Doyle Payne Jr. would not say how much the 50 jobs would pay. He said some would be unskilled labor jobs - people taking containers of medical waste from trucks and putting them on conveyor belts. Payne said most of the jobs would be technicians, who must weigh and catalog each container of waste that comes in to the facility.

They would be paid at a "middle-manager" level, he said.

- Steven T. Dennis

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