Medical-waste incinerator in Matthews could be shuttered, sold
by Kara Lopp
The owner of a controversial medical-waste incinerator in Matthews is considering closing and selling the facility.
In a letter last month to county air quality officials, Joseph Mayernik, CEO of Healthcare Waste Solutions which owns Matthews’ BMWNC Inc., said sale of the facility is one option Healthcare Waste is considering after a January ruling by the N.C. Environmental Commission will force the company to comply with stricter federal air quality guidelines well before the state-adopted deadline of July 1, 2013.
Now, the company must bring the incinerator into compliance by Oct. 6, 2012. Officials in Mecklenburg County, Matthews and Stallings have all supported the earlier deadline.
Lake Forest, Ill.-based Stericycle is in the process of buying the Cincinnati-based Healthcare Waste Solutions for $245 million, according to a news release from Stericycle. The Matthews incinerator is the only facility Healthcare Waste Solutions will continue to own and operate if the acquisition is completed. But if that happens, a spin off company called MNC Holdings LLC will be created to operate the facility at 3250 Campus Ridge Road, Mayernik said in the letter.
A change in ownership wouldn’t require prior approval from Matthews because zoning is attached to land use and not business owners, Matthews Planning Director Kathi Ingrish said.
If the sale goes through, “perhaps the more prudent course will be for MNC to cease operation of the incineration facility (stop incinerating waste) and attempt to sell the facility to a pedigreed buyer capable of retrofitting and operating the facility in accordance with the new regulations,” Mayernik wrote.
The letter is good news for area residents, said Catherine Mitchell, spokeswoman for the nonprofit Citizens for a Healthy Environment, the local chapter of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League.
“We see it as a victory. I think there are hopeful people out there,” she said. “The ultimate goal has always been shut down. I think by going after them the way we did and getting two years shaved off the deadline, we’ve basically put enough pressure on them to force their hand. We never expected that they would actually do the upgrades and renovations to continue to operate under the new rules. I didn’t think that would happen because from a business sense, it made no sense whatsoever. They (are) sitting on a site that is such a liability to begin with.”
With estimates for necessary upgrades estimated at $2 million to $5 million, is the cost of compliance just too expensive? Not necessarily, Don Nuss, director of environmental health and safety with the company, said.
“We haven’t said that,” he said Wednesday. “We’ve agreed to make the changes, and we’re still working on a detailed plan with our engineers. We’re still working to see if we can narrow that (price) range down a little bit.
“We’re still planning to go through with everything. We don’t plan on selling (BMWNC in) Matthews at this time. If the merger goes through then, obviously, there will be other options we’ll evaluate. The deadline is a very aggressive deadline, and we thought the 2013 deadline was aggressive. So you can imagine our thoughts on the 2012 deadline. But we fully anticipate being fully operational and compliant by the deadline.”
BMWNC has incurred air quality violations in the past, most recently citations for nine air quality violations during three inspections from March 30 to April 16, 2010. Three of the violations involved potentially toxic smoke escaping the plant. The company was fined $84,620 for the violations, Don Willard, director of Mecklenburg County Air Quality, said this week.