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September 2004

Ocean County Medical Waste Compliance Sweep a Success

Trenton, NJ— Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell announced the successful completion of the Ocean County Medical Waste Generator Compliance and Enforcement initiative.

The sweep, which DEP led in partnership with the Department of Health and Senior Services, assessed compliance with state requirements that protect the public from the potential hazards of discarded needles, syringes, and other medical waste.

“The Ocean County sweep shows that the State of New Jersey must continue to identify medical waste generators who should be registered.

DEP is developing online registration to encourage compliance and will work to more effectively communicate its requirements for sorting, collecting and disposing of medical waste,” said Commissioner Campbell.

The Ocean County Medical Waste Generator Compliance and Enforcement sweep demonstrated that approximately eighty percent of Ocean County medical waste generators maintain a high level of compliance with state regulations. The initiative included inspections at more than 1,541 facilities and uncovered 341 environmental violations at 160 sites. 800 of the 1,541 sites inspected were found to be active generators of regulated medical waste. 87 of the facilities inspected were cited for a single violation, while 73 sites were cited for multiple violations. 50 unregistered medical waste generators accounted for 50% of the total violations.

DEP and DHSS conducted the medical waste sweep in two phases. The first phase, known as the Compliance Sweep, began in March and focused on providing outreach and assistance to regulated individuals, businesses and government operations in the Barnegat Bay Watershed area. Regulated medical waste generators affected by this initiative include: medical, dental, and veterinary offices; hospitals; nursing homes; assisted living facilities; convalescent homes; medical analytical laboratories; outpatient surgical centers; biomedical research facilities; funeral homes; schools; and body piercing and tattoo parlors.

A Compliance Advisory Alert was mailed to over 1,700 known and potentially regulated individuals, businesses and government operations as well as trade associations. The Department of Commerce assisted in the compliance portion by performing outreach to groups representing medical waste generators. Subsequent to this outreach, a series of training sessions was held in Brant Beach and Waretown.

The second phase, known as the Enforcement Sweep, began in April and involved large-scale, unannounced inspections. The majority of the violations uncovered in the sweep resulted from improper documentation of waste disposal practices. The most common violations included failure to retain copies of annual reports summarizing waste generation activity, failure to submit an annual report to DEP, and failure to register with DEP as a medical waste generator. Failure to retain copies of medical waste disposal tracking forms and failure to use a tracking form for the disposal of regulated medical waste were also among the most common violations.

DEP and DHSS issued Notices of Violations at inspection sites during the Enforcement Sweep, and DHSS is currently directing further enforcement action. DHSS is addressing non-compliance found during the Enforcement Sweep by issuing penalty assessment notices to medical waste generators who were found to violate regulations, such as failing to register as a generator, failing to submit annual reports, and failing to use approved tracking forms for shipments of regulated waste. DHSS may require the development and submission of a plan of correction to address violations that have public health implications. Re-inspections will evaluate implementation of the plans of correction. Penalties will range from $1,500 to $3,000 per violation.

The Compliance and Enforcement Sweep stimulated a 64 percent increase in new medical waste generator registrations in Ocean County in April.

The number of applications submitted rose steadily after DEP and DHSS provided notice of the impending sweep in February.

In response to the large number of violations related to unregistered generators, DEP is developing a program to enable medical waste generators to register via the internet, increasing efficiency and ease of compliance with state regulations.

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