Friday, January 28, 2011


Honolulu EPA swamped with medical waste calls

by Larry Geller

There’s only one guy in the Honolulu office who gets these calls, and he said his phone is ringing all day. I sympathize, and am glad that he called me back. I won’t give name or phone number, they don’t need more calls. Besides, all Disappeared News readers are clever enough to google for it if you really want to call them.

My call will be referred to San Francisco.

What did I call about? I want to go swimming one day without fear of getting poked with somebody’s body fluids. So I called. My basic question was whether the EPA will intervene given that Hawaii’s Department of Health is not doing their job, IMHO.

How do I arrive at that humble opinion? There are stories to read in the papers, videos on TV, and lots of followup on the blogs.  Look in particular at Andy Parx’ article Stickkn’ it to ya (Got Windmills, 1/27/2010). Andy knows what he is talking about, he has expertise in this area. He notes that rules for disposal of the waste are not being followed, as evidenced by the pictures and videos you can see of syringes with needles attached, for example. Also, if there are contents in a sealed vial (blood or urine), the contents will not be sterilized by autoclaving.

There’s more. In a Star-Advertiser story, DOH asked anyone to call Waste Management if medical waste is discovered. That would mean the DOH does not get a report of the problem. It’s their responsibility to keep track of reports and to keep records in order to be able to assess the problem. See: Department of Health washes its hands of medical waste (1/27/2010).

When the state refuses to do its job, it seems the feds might step in.

We have multiple problems. One is certainly the medical waste, how did it get into the landfill, and that’s not a Waste Management responsibility. They don’t look into your garbage bags to see if medical waste is there. Another is the whole storm water issue, that is, how the dump got into crisis mode in the first place. It could happen again if a storm came by today.

This is only Oahu. Who knows what is going on state-wide. Who is monitoring the disposal of medical waste? Are there inspectors? Has the DOH’s ability to inspect been affected by budget cuts, as it was with rat inspections?

So I called. I’ll let you know if anything comes of it. Meanwhile, if you enjoy Hawaii’s fine beaches, think of running into a bunch of syringes while you’re out in the waves. Or, find a way to get our government to do its job and keep our beaches free of this kind of stuff.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.


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