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E-M:/ Grand Rapids Medical Incinerator Poised to Close!!!

Enviro-Mich message from WMEACJENNY@aol.com

August 27, 1999



Tom Leonard, Executive Director
West Michigan Environmental Action Council

Jenny Allen
WMEAC's Environmental Health Work Group Chair

After months of negotiation between Browning Ferris Industries (BFI) and the 
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), a consent order has been 
drafted that would permanently close the BFI medical waste incinerator 
located in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  The consent order fines BFI an 
undisclosed figure and requires the closure of the facility on Market Street 

This consent order needs to be approved internally by the DEQ and also by the 
EPA before it can take effect.

WMEAC's Board of Directors called at their meeting in August for the 
permanent closure of the facility, following months of effort by WMEAC's 
Environmental Health Working Group to bring attention to safety concerns.  
The U.S. EPA had identified medical waste incinerators as a leading source of 
both dioxin and mercury pollution.  In reviewing the safety records of the 
BFI medical waste incinerator it was apparent that it had failed stack tests 
for hydrochloric acid (HCL) and carbon monoxide, leading to the suspicion 
that mercury and dioxin pollution levels might also be high.

The facility was given repeated chances over the span of more than a year to 
improve its performance.  When the incinerator could not pass preliminary 
tests for HCL on July 24, 1998, they were given a chance to do repairs and 
retest the next day.  When again it could not pass the test the incinerator 
was given 5 months to replace and repair major components.  Then again on 
December 1st when they saw that it would not pass they came back on the 2nd 
and failed again.  Five months later the DEQ  gave it another chance. However 
stack tests for mercury and dioxin, both highly toxic airborne pollutants, 
were never required.

WMEAC Executive Director Tom Leonard congratulated  the WMEAC members and 
volunteers  who worked hard for the closure of the facility, striving to 
educate the public on the facility's poor safety record and the safety 
problems with medical waste incinerators in general.

" We can rest a little easier today as we have made West Michigan's air a 
little cleaner,"  he said.    " We are glad to see the consent order call for 
closure of this facility and we trust that DEQ and EPA will move speedily to 
institute it."

The medical waste formerly incinerated in Grand Rapids will be transported to 
facilities in Toledo, Ohio and  Springfield,  Illinois.  The bulk of it will 
be sterilized by autoclaving.

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