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EPA Plans to Increase Enforcement of Environmental Laws at New England Hospitals

Release Date: 04/13/04
Contact Information: contact: Amy Miller, EPA Press Office, (617) 918-1042

For Immediate Release: April 13, 2004; Release # 04-04-07

BOSTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week sent letters to more than 250 hospitals in New England announcing its plans step up enforcement at health care facilities due to possible concerns about environmental violations at these facilities.

"Many hospital functions such as laboratories, power plants, and vehicle maintenance facilities, have the potential to cause environmental violations if not properly managed," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England office, in his letter. "I strongly encourage you to identify and correct any such violations."

As part of its effort to step up enforcement, EPA New England is planning a workshop on May 20 in Tyngsboro, Mass. to help hospitals in New England comply with environmental regulations. The workshop will be at Boston University's Corporate Education Center. Registration information on the May 20 workshop can be found at http://www.epa.gov/region1/healthcare.

EPA New England launched this effort after EPA's New York office discovered numerous violations at hospitals in the New York/New Jersey area.

"Based on these findings, EPA New England will be increasing its enforcement presence in the health care sector," Varney wrote.

EPA New England will work extensively with staff at health care facilities to ensure they know, understand and adhere to federal environmental laws, which are central to protecting the public's health and safety, according to Varney.

This week's letter comes as EPA is also working with 110 health care facilities in New England through the National Hospitals for a Healthy Environment program to reduce the amount of mercury and solid waste generated by these facilities.

EPA today announced that two grants worth a total of $134,000 have been awarded to Hospitals for a Healthy Environment (H2E) at its Hanover, NH office. These funds will support projects aimed helping hospitals to comply with environmental regulations.

A $60,000 grant will fund a project to test new ways to reduce pharmaceutical waste in hospitals and dispose of it more effectively. The project involves a partnership with H2E, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, PharmEcology Associates, the NH Department of Environmental Services, the NH Hospital Association and EPA.

"The problem of pharmaceutical waste has just begun to hit the radar screen at most hospitals," noted Varney. "We are glad to see these hospital leaders creating an innovative model for this waste stream that can be used by other hospitals and that will reduce the damage to our environment caused by these medical wastes. We expect hospital officials throughout New England to make environmental issues a priority, right up there with good medical care."

A second $74,040 grant will be used to train inspectors from the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Health Care Organizations (JCAHO) to incorporate environmental compliance and pollution prevention into their accreditation process. JCAHO accreditation is required by hospitals to receive Medicare funding. This project involves a partnership among a number of health care organizations, including the American Hospital Association and EPA.

Related Information:
Healthcare in
New England