Environmental group wants medical waste incinerator closed
by Kara Lopp
A North Carolina environmental group urged Mecklenburg County leaders to immediately shutter the medical waste incinerator in Matthews.
Officials with the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League made the recommendation Tuesday, Nov. 9, after releasing the results of computer modeling report, they say, shows the BMWNC incinerator is “too dangerous to operate.” Blue Ridge and local chapter Citizens for a Healthy Environment have been helping residents fight for stricter local and federal regulations to restrict emissions released by the incinerator at 3250 Campus Ridge Road in Matthews.
County officials say they will review the new report but maintain the company complies with current emission standards.
BMWNC did not return calls for comment.
The incinerator burns waste from doctors’ offices and hospitals, including Presbyterian Hospital Matthews, such as old medical records, used syringes, removed organs and amputated limbs, chemotherapy waste and biopsy tissue.
The report, authored by Blue Ridge Science Director Lou Zeller, claims incinerator emissions travel farther outside the property than other computer modeling programs have previously predicted. Using a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency computer program, the report states that toxins, including mercury, hydrogen chloride and cadmium, exceed state standards at 328 feet from the plant.
Dioxin, which the World Health Organization says is highly toxic and causes cancer, exceeds those standards 656 feet from the plant, and arsenic levels surpass state standards a half-mile from the plant, Blue Ridge’s analysis says. Chromium, the report says, reaches dangerous levels more than 6 miles from the incinerator.
Blue Ridge plans to submit its findings to Mecklenburg County Air Quality Director Don Willard, . BMWNC was cited for nine air-quality violations during three separate inspections from March 30 to April 16. Three of the violations involved potentially toxic smoke coming from the plant. The company is awaiting a decision on renewal of its Mecklenburg County Air Quality permit.
The county halted the review process until BMWNC could prove during unannounced inspections that the company was consistently operating in compliance. After three inspections, including one after 8 p.m., the process will be resumed soon, Willard said Tuesday.
“We hope he’ll take it to heart and hear our prayer for relief, ” Zeller said. “This plant is a repeat offender. This evidence should be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. (The emission standards) are being met on paper by a computer model that’s wrong.”
Willard, who hadn’t yet seen the report Tuesday, said “there hasn’t been any indication” that emission levels at the incinerator violate state air quality standards. He is, however, interested to read Blue Ridge’s report.
“We’ll look at it and evaluate it, ” he said.