The first of several public meetings regarding the disposal of over 15 million pounds of M6 propellant in Camp Minden attracted close to 150 concerned officials and citizens into the Minden Civic Center Thursday night.
There, they heard the arrangement reached between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army, which will finance the $28.5 million tidy from the illegally stored substance left by Explo Systems, Inc., predicts strictly for open air burning.
“Local contractors, the Maddens, made a device,” Webster Parish Sheriff Gary Sexton, that set up the meeting, stated. “For some reason, that device isn’t being considered in this clean up process.”
“We’re disappointed,” James Madden, proprietor of Madden Contracting, stated. Madden’s son, David spent time and money researching and building a prototype which would’ve allowed closed incineration of the product. “We considered we built a better mousetrap.”
But Madden may not be out of it yet. The Army must first design a bid package and undergo a procedure required by legislation to find a company to have the job.
“The Maddens can throw at a bid on the open menu procedure,” Sexton said. “They have the right to come in and I think they can do this.”
State Sen. Robert Adley stated while discussion regarding responsibility was taking place, the Maddens developed a plan to take care of this. Adley, along with others in the local delegation, attended a demo of the incinerator in Camp Minden past January. “We’re not professionals, but under legislation, by their interpretation, the EPA cannot use that procedure. I regret this, but it’s where we’re in this stage of the game.”
Adley stated that under existing legislation, the Louisiana Military Department and Maj. Gen. Glenn H. Curtis are all required to take bids from whoever supplies you.
“In the end of the afternoon he (Curtis) could sit down and decide who’s qualified, that has the experience and if they have the financial backing to get it done,” Adley said. “All of these things are going to be taken into consideration. It’d be fantastic if it was a person who, when they finish, will be sitting here breathing this air .”
David Madden seemed resigned to the EPA’s choice after attending an informal meeting with officials earlier in the afternoon.
“I have studied this procedure andyes, I did work for an incinerator,” he said. “I met with EPA officials and other experts not associated with the EPA, and they’re going down the right path with the open trays.”
Madden stated that his change of heart on the haste with which the disposal must take place to avoid more degradation of the product, which makes it increasingly dangerous.
“It’s important this get started the first quarter of next year,” he said. “I’ve looked in the air quality plumes (from open tray burning). Just 10 percent of this fallout will visit Doyline. There’s an equivalent amount heading toward Bossier and going north. Our business is about a mile and a half since east. We’re going to find some of this.”
“In my site and in my office, we’ll keep all the completely upgraded materials,” Reynolds said. “We’re going to keep (the people ) educated with everything that comes out from that point forward.”
Sexton emphasized the importance of the people’s help.
“Help us calm the fears of those people in the community about what we do not understand will happen with the destruction of the M6 propellant,” he said. “We may all agree on things that may happen, but we do not need to chat about what we need to worry about. The men and women that are going to be responsible — whoever the contractor is — the people which are going to be disposing of this product, keep them in your prayers because something could happen to the men and women that are responsible for going out there and opening those bunkers, choosing this product up, moving it and destroying it where we could live in a safer neighborhood.”
The upcoming public meeting is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 16. Time and location have not been determined.
“Help us calm the fears of the people in the community about what we don’t know is going to happen with the destruction of the M6 propellant,” he said. “We may all speculate on things that may happen, but we don’t need to talk about what we have to worry about. The people who are going to be responsible – whoever the contractor is – the people that are going to be disposing of this product, keep them in your prayers because something could happen to the people who are responsible for going out there and opening those bunkers, picking this product up, moving it and destroying it where we can live in a safer community.”
The next public meeting is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 16. Time and location have not been decided.
Patients for this debilitating virus create 440 gallons of medical waste every day, including instruments, dresses, gloves, body fluids, sheets, mattresses and much more. That is a substantial number of medical waste in any circumstance, but it is particularly daunting in this case because it ought to be disposed of extremely carefully, to avoid the chance of spreading infection. What do you do with a problem such as Ebola waste? Because you don’t want to toss it in the garbage.
Somewhat surprisingly, states Bausch, the United States actually faces bigger problems in regards to safely disposing of Ebola waste, which can be only burned in large pits in Africa:”In the United States, naturally, we’re somewhat beholden to higher tech solutions, which in some ways are a tiny bit more problematic in terms of handling all that waste, and we need autoclaves or incinerators that can handle that type of thing. It’s not the actual inactivation that’s particularly difficult; it is just the process of finding the waste out of, of course, that the frontline of care and interaction with the patients safely to the location where it can be incinerated or autoclaved.”
The problem in the United States is ironically compounded by the increased accessibility to healthcare, and the high quality of healthcare services, available. In the United States, patients have been treated by medical teams with access to a massive volume of equipment they use for protection, including masks, gowns, booties, and gloves, along with sanitizers and other tools. Moreover, patients get extensive medical interventions that create waste such as tubing, needles, medical tape, empty IV bags, and much more. The care that has helped the majority of the number of Ebola patients in the United States conquer the disease has contributed to the huge quantity of waste generated, highlighting a critical hole in U.S. medical infrastructure — although African American hospitals may have lacked the staff and supplies required to provide aid to Ebola patients, they are at least prepared to handle the waste.
The CDC just issued guidelines to help clinicians and administrators decide upon how to handle Ebola squander, but The New York Times notes that lots of facilities do not have the autoclave, and incinerator, capacity to handle medical waste on this scale. Some countries prohibit the burning of medical waste entirely, or have barred incineration of Ebola waste, leading to the transport of waste across state boundaries to facilities that can handle it, which introduces its own dangers; with every mile added to transport, there is a greater danger of spreading disease to previously unexposed communities.
Astonishingly, defenders of burning the garbage come in surprising corners. When you are dealing with pathogenic and biological hazards, occasionally the safest thing to do is combustion.” Fears about Ebola, rather than real ecological or public health concerns, are forcing the decision to push incineration of ebola squander in several areas, but the United States will have to face reality: The mounting waste that accumulates in facilities where Ebola patients get treatments has to be disposed of safely, safely and immediately.
The argument in defense of incineration can be bolstered by the fact that medical waste companies specialize in high-efficiency incineration with equipment designed to minimize and trap byproducts of combustion, reducing overall pollution considerably. Fears about Ebola, rather than genuine environmental or public health concerns, are driving the decision to push against incineration of ebola waste in many regions, but eventually, the United States is going to have to face facts: The mounting waste that accumulates in facilities where Ebola patients receive treatments needs to be disposed of safely, and promptly.
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Just one Ebola patient treated at a U.S. hospital will generate eight 55-gallon barrels of medical waste every day.
Protective gloves, gowns, masks and booties are donned and doffed by all who approach the patient’s bedside and subsequently lost. Disposable medical tools, packaging, bed linens, cups, plates, tissues, towels, pillowcases and whatever which is utilized to clean up after the individual must be thrown away.
Even curtains, privacy beds and screens finally must be treated as contaminated medical waste and disposed of.
Dealing with this assortment of pathogen-filled debris without tripping new infections is an authorized and logistical challenge for each U.S. hospital currently preparing for a possible trip by the virus.
In California and other states, it’s an even worse waste-management nightmare.
While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends autoclaving (a kind of sterilizing) or incinerating the waste as a surefire way of destroying the germs, burning waste is effectively banned in California, also prohibited in several other states.
“Storage, transportation and disposal of this waste will be a significant issue,” California Hospital Association President C. Duane Dauner warned Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., in a letter a week.
Even some countries that generally allow incineration are throwing up barriers to Ebola waste.
In Missouri, the state attorney general has sought to bar Ebola-contaminated debris by a St. Louis incinerator run by Stericycle Inc., the country’s largest medical waste disposal company.
Due to restrictions on burning, California hospital agents say their only option seems to be trucking the waste over public highways and incinerating it in another country — a prospect which makes some environmental advocates uneasy.
Rules for transportation
Under national transportation guidelines, the substance would be designated a Class A infectious substance, or one that is capable of causing death or permanent disability, and might require special approval from the Department of Transportation, hospital agents state.
“We fully expect that it is coming our way,” Bayer said of this virus. “Not to create any sort of scare, but just handed the makeup of the population and the hub that we are. It’s very possible” It can’t survive a 1,500-degree scorching in a incinerator, or the prolonged, pressurized steam of an autoclave. “It’s killed by bleach, by autoclaving, by an assortment of chemicals.”
But, CDC guidelines note that”chemical inactivation” has yet to be standardized and could activate worker safety regulations.
California health officials lately tried to reassure residents that the state’s private and public hospitals were up to the job and were actively training for the possible coming of Ebola.
“Ebola does not pose a significant public health risk to California communities at the current time,” explained Dr. Gil Chavez, an epidemiologist and deputy director at the California Department of Public Health. “Let me tell you why: Current scientific evidence specifies that individuals can’t access Ebola through the atmosphere, food or water. … The Ebola virus does not survive over a few hours on impervious surfaces”
It was uncertain if California officials saw the waste issue as a possible issue.
Although one third of the state’s private hospitals and”a few” of its public hospitals reported to Boxer’s office that there could be problems complying with the CDC’s incineration recommendation, along with many others, a state public health official told reporters he was not aware of any conflicts.
“Here’s what we’ve heard from the CDC: It’s OK,” Perrott explained. “But then we’ve heard from some sources, that perhaps we need to fix it somehow and then flush it down the toilet or you need to consult local authorities. It seems perhaps a bit gross, but there’s a real question about what to do with that waste.”
Dr. Thomas Ksiazek, a professor of microbiology and immunology at this University of Texas Medical Branch, has said he believes there has been a good deal of overreaction regarding Ebola medical waste.
“There are other methods to manage the waste; autoclaving would be chief among them,” Ksiazek mentioned. “The issue is, most physicians don’t use it for many disposable items. They are quite pleased to bag them up and send them into some normal medical disposal company.”
But Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said incineration is straightforward and powerful, and must be available to hospitals to help dispose of this mountain of waste.
Hershkowitz said claims began to crack down on medical waste incineration years ago because substances which didn’t need to get burned were sent to combustors and so were emitting dangerous pollutants.
In this case of Ebola medical waste, he said California should reconsider its limitations.
“There is no pollutant that’s going to come out of a waste incinerator that’s more dangerous than the Ebola virus,” Hershkowitz said. “When you’re dealing with biological and sociological dangers, sometimes the safest thing to do would be combustion.”
But Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said incineration is simple and effective, and should be available to hospitals to help dispose of the mountain of waste.
Hershkowitz said states began to crack down on medical waste incineration years ago because materials that didn’t need to be burned were being sent to combustors and were emitting dangerous pollutants.
In this case of Ebola medical waste, he said California should reconsider its restrictions.
“There’s no pollutant that’s going to come out of a waste incinerator that’s more dangerous than the Ebola virus,” Hershkowitz said. “When you’re dealing with pathogenic and biological hazards, sometimes the safest thing to do is combustion.”