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EPA Fines Atlantic Health System Inc. for Failure to Properly Manage Hazardous Waste

Release Date: 11/25/2003
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(#03139) New York, N.Y. -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that it will seek $64,349 in penalties from Atlantic Health System Inc., owner and operator of Mountainside Hospital in Montclair, New Jersey. The Agency cited the company for violating numerous hazardous waste management requirements under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

"Hospitals and healthcare facilities should consider the proper handling of hazardous waste as an integral part of their mandates to protect people's health," said Jane M. Kenny, EPA Regional Administrator."We are pleased that Mountainside Hospital has recognized its responsibility to its patients, employees and neighbors, and is taking action to correct the violations."

EPA discovered the violations at Mountainside Hospital during an April 2003 inspection. The violations included improper storage or disposal of several types of solid waste, and failure to determine whether they were hazardous wastes. In addition, the hospital did not have a permit to store hazardous waste and did not meet the protective management requirements needed to be exempt from a permit. Hazardous waste containers were not clearly identified with the required markings or inspected regularly, and emergency response information was not posted. Mountainside is working to correct the violations. Its parent company, Atlantic Health, has 30 days to respond to the complaint.

In 2002, EPA started the Hospital and Healthcare Initiative to help hospitals and healthcare facilities comply with environmental regulations as part of a larger EPA voluntary audit policy. The Agency established the policy to encourage prompt disclosure and correction of environmental violations, safeguarding people's health and the environment. Many hospitals and healthcare facilities were not aware of their responsibilities under various environmental laws or had failed to implement effective compliance strategies. As part of the initiative, EPA sent letters to 480 facilities in New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and held free workshops to help hospitals comply. In addition, the Agency established a Web site that provides information about their duties under the law, and warned hospitals that EPA inspections of their facilities - with risk of financial penalties - were imminent.

Hospitals that wish to take advantage of the Agency's voluntary self-audit program can investigate and disclose environmental violations to EPA and, if certain conditions are met, receive a partial or complete reduction in financial penalties. To date, eleven hospitals have entered into voluntary self-audit disclosure agreements with EPA. The Agency is continuing to conduct inspections.

More information about hazardous waste regulations can be found on EPA's Web site at: http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/osw/index.htm.