Waste Management Charged with Illegal Transport Of Infectious Waste

Harrisburg, PA - Agents of the Pennsylvania Environmental Crimes Section have charged Waste Management of New York and Kephart Trucking of Bigler, Clearfield County, with alleged violations of the state's environmental crimes laws for illegally transporting infectious medical waste from a Brooklyn, New York, transfer station on Interstate 80 in Columbia County.

Attorney General Fisher said his office initiated the investigation based on a referral from the State Department of Environmental Protection. He said evidence of the defendant's illegal activities was presented before the Eighteenth Statewide Investigating Grand Jury, which recommended that he file criminal charges.

Fisher said the charges state that on May 21, 2001, at a weigh station on Interstate 80 in Columbia County, a state police trooper conducted an inspection on a waste-hauling truck operated by Randall Reed.

Fisher said the grand jury heard testimony from the Pennsylvania State Police trooper who conducted the inspection of Reed's truck. He testified that when he removed the tarp covering the trailer he observed what he believed to be infectious medical waste.

The state trooper testified after completing his inspection, he contacted a DEP solid waste specialist who was in the area as part of Operation Clean Sweep. The DEP specialist also conducted an inspection of the trailer and determined that the load contained infectious medical waste.

The grand jury heard from a special agent with the Attorney General's Environmental Crimes Section who testified that samples of the waste from the trailer, which included a piece of gauze, a plastic suction bag and suction tubing, were sent to the State Police forensic crime laboratory for analysis. The agent testified that the crime lab reported that the items contained human proteins, human blood and bodily fluids.

Fisher said that under state law, infectious waste is a subcategory of municipal waste and there are specific regulations that control its handling, transportation and disposal. Among those requirements is that infectious waste can only be transported by a licensed infectious waste transporter and infectious waste must be transported in a ridged, puncture-resistant container. Infectious waste is usually disposed of in an incinerator.

Fisher said the grand jury found that neither Reed nor Kephart Trucking had a license to transport infectious waste, neither had used an infectious waste manifest and that the infectious waste was not properly contained because the liquid was leaking onto the ground.

The grand jury heard testimony that Kephart Trucking made approximately 500 deliveries of municipal waste each day during April and May of 2001 and that the company generated approximately $40 million annually from transporting municipal waste.

Fisher said the grand jury found that Waste Management of New York had health care facility customers, including hospitals, whose medical waste was transported and dumped at the Varick Transfer Station in Brooklyn.

The grand jury found that on May 21, 2001, Waste Management of New York employees at the Varick Transfer Station allegedly mixed infectious hospital waste with municipal hospital waste and loaded it into Reed's tractor-trailer shipment destined to the Shade Landfill in Somerset County.

Fisher said both Waste Management of New York and Kephart Trucking are charged with three counts each of violating the Infectious and Chemotherapeutic Waste Disposal Act. Each count is a third-degree misdemeanor and carries a penalty of up to $25,000 per count.

Fisher noted that both defendants waived their preliminary hearing. The Columbia County court will set formal arraignment dates.