Veterans Affairs hospitals will pay nearly $534K to settle hazardous waste allegations

Hospital Safety Insider, August 26, 2009

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In a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a regional system of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has agreed to pay nearly $534,000 in fines and follow-up project costs, all the result of alleged hazardous waste law violations at VA hospitals in Kansas.
The alleged problems occurred in 2006 at Dwight D. Eisenhower Veterans Medical Center in Leavenworth, KS, and Colmery O'Neil Veterans Medical Center in Topeka, KS, according to the EPA. Both hospitals fall under the VA Eastern Kansas Healthcare System.
The EPA accused the hospitals of allegedly failing to perform hazardous waste determinations, operating a hazardous waste facility without a permit, offering hazardous waste shipments without a manifest, and offering hazardous waste to an unregistered transporter.
In addition to a $51,501 civil penalty, the VA must spend at least $482,069 to develop and carry out a program to properly identify, segregate, and manage pharmaceutical and chemical wastes at both hospitals.

Investigators found the following specific violations of the U.S. Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), according to the EPA:
  • Failure to perform proper hazardous waste determinations at Leavenworth and Topeka
  • Failure to properly manage hazardous waste satellite accumulation containers in the histology laboratory and lab storage room at Leavenworth
  • Failure to properly mark hazardous waste containers in the histology lab storage room and a paint waste storage room at Leavenworth
  • Failure to keep proper emergency information posted near phones at both hospitals
  • Failure to document all weekly inspections of hazardous waste storage areas at Leavenworth
  • Failure to conduct weekly inspections of an area storing large quantities of acute hazardous waste at Topeka
  • Failure to make proper advance arrangements with local authorities for responding to emergencies at both facilities
  • Failure to develop a proper emergency contingency plan at Topeka
  • Failure to document a personnel training plan at Topeka
  • Failure to properly store incompatible wastes at Leavenworth
  • Unpermitted on-site incineration of some hazardous wastes at both facilities
  • Unlawful shipping of hazardous waste between the two facilities without proper manifests, including the transportation of waste from Leavenworth to Topeka by an unauthorized hauler
Subscribers to the Hospital Safety Center can read more about RCRA compliance by logging in and searching for “RCRA” without quotes.

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