From Environmental Protection Agency
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued a legal complaint against SUNY Downstate Medical Center in East Flatbush, charging it with violating federal hazardous waste law.
The hospital must come into compliance with hazardous waste requirements and faces fines up to $156,710 for the improper management and storage of hazardous wastes in two buildings in its Brooklyn. EPA inspections found that the hospital had generated and stored chemical wastes in corroded and leaking containers, many of which the federal agency said were not properly labeled.
Calls and emails from the Eagle to SUNY Downstate were not returned by press time.
“Hospitals and research facilities should take steps to reduce the generation of hazardous waste, and ensure wastes are properly stored and handled,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “When not properly handled, hazardous wastes can pose a danger to employees and those living in the surrounding community.”
Under federal hazardous waste law, hazardous wastes must be stored, handled and disposed of properly to safeguard public health and the environment. Facilities must also have properly trained staff, as improperly stored hazardous waste can spill and pose a risk to people and the environment.
In June 2013, the EPA conducted inspections of SUNY Downstate Medical Center’s campus. Afterward, the hospital was charged with five counts, including:
The failure to determine which substances should be considered hazardous waste to ensure that they are managed properly;
The storage of hazardous waste without a permit. Owners or operators of facilities used for the treatment, storage or disposal of hazardous waste must first obtain a permit or qualify for interim status, unless they meet certain conditions for short term storage of waste without a permit;
The failure to maintain and operate its facilities in a manner that minimized the possibility of a fire, explosion or accidental release of chemicals;
The failure to ship hazardous waste to an authorized facility; and
The failure to use hazardous waste manifests for the transportation of hazardous wastes from its facility. Generators of hazardous waste must prepare a manifest before shipping hazardous waste for transport off-site.
The complaint spelled out some of these allegations. Among the conditions found, according to the EPA, were a box of old, abandoned chemicals found in the Basic Science Building, storage of acids in the Basic Science Building that were improperly labels and in some cases discolored, a stored container of ammonium hydroxide that was at least 40 years old, a cabinet in the Hospital Building containing “old chemicals from an abandoned library”, six one-gallon, unlabeled containers of hazardous waste in the Basic Science Building.
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SUNY released a statement Thursday evening: "SUNY Downstate is working closely with the federal Environmental Protection Agency to identify and correct any issues involving the storage and handling of potentially hazardous substances. We are confident the matter the EPA cited today will be fully resolved. It is always our primary objective to protect the health and well-being of the community we serve, and that of our students and employees. "