SEPTEMBER 2009

VA Hospitals in Kansas pays penalty and implements better waste practices

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs Eastern Kansas Health Care System (DVA) has agreed to pay a $51,501 civil penalty and spend nearly a half-million dollars on a plan to manage pharmaceutical and chemical wastes, all in an agreement to settle alleged violations of hazardous waste laws at its hospitals in Leavenworth and Topeka, Kansas.

The agreement, filed in Kansas City, Kansas, resolves a series of violations noted during inspections of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Veterans Medical Center in Leavenworth in January 2006, and the Colmery O’Neil Veterans Medical Center in Topeka in April 2006.

A three-count complaint accused DVA of one count of failure to perform hazardous waste determinations; one count of operation of a hazardous waste treatment, storage or disposal facility without a permit; and one count of offering hazardous waste for shipment to a transporter without a manifest and offering hazardous waste to an unregistered transporter.

The complaint alleged that the 2006 inspections by EPA Region 7 staff found multiple violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, including:

  • Failure to perform proper hazardous waste determinations at Leavenworth and Topeka.
  • Failure to properly manage hazardous waste satellite accumulation containers in the Histology Lab and Lab Storage Room at Leavenworth.
  • Failure to properly mark hazardous waste containers in the Histology Lab storage room, a paint waste storage room and one other room at Leavenworth.
  • 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 store incompatible wastes without proper segregation 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 hazardous waste by an unauthorized waste transporter.

Besides paying a $51,501 civil penalty, the Department of Veterans Affairs Eastern Kansas Health System must spend at least $482,069 on a supplemental environmental project to develop and implement a program to properly identify, segregate and manage its pharmaceutical and chemical wastes at the Leavenworth and Topeka hospitals.

The supplemental environmental project will have at least three phases, including analysis of waste streams present at the facilities, development of current reference material including the implementation of pharmaceutical waste software, and risk assessment to define processes and identify needs.

DVA plans to develop software and hire additional personnel to track all chemicals and pharmaceuticals at both hospitals. This in turn will identify areas where product substitution, employee training and recycling can be implemented, potentially eliminating the disposal of hundreds of pounds of hazardous waste annually at each facility.