St. Elizabeth's Hospital to pay $10,000 fine in hazardous waste case

News-DemocratDecember 13, 2013 

Exterior view of St. Elizabeth's Hospital.

TIM VIZER/BND

St. Elizabeth Hospital in Belleville has agreed to pay a $10,000 state fine for allegedly failing to properly store hazardous waste and for other violations.

The fine stems from an inspection of the Belleville hospital in Sept. 2011 by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. The violations allegedly occurred in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

State inspectors found "human health and environment were threatened and the Illinois EPA's information gathering responsibilities hindered by the (hospital's) violations," according to the state's complaint.

St. Elizabeth's spokesman Jim Krohn said state officials notified the hospital in 2011 of some technical violations regarding how certain waste materials that are byproducts from various medical procedures were labeled and stored.

"At no time did the storage of these materials pose a risk to patients, colleagues or the general public," Krohn said. "Once we learned of the compliance issues, we immediately worked with state officials to address the matter so that our storage process was in compliance with regulations.We appreciate the State's willingness to work with us in providing greater clarity on the regulations in question and develop a remediation plan."

The inspectors allegedly found 178 one-gallon plastic bottles containing spent solvents used to "de-water" human tissue were not labeled within the hospital's hazardous waste cage.

The hospital also allegedly did not have a plan in case a fire or other disaster unexpectedly released hazardous waste.

Hospital officials agreed to the fine in a settlement agreement with the Illinois Attorney General's Office on Nov. 26. The agreement states hospital officials neither admit nor deny the cited violations and have corrected the alleged failings.

The settlement agreement still must be approved by the members of the state's Pollution Control Board. The earliest the board may consider the settlement is January, according to the board's senior attorney Kathleen Crowley.

The last time the board fined a hospital was in 2007, according to state records. Provena United Samaritans Medical Center in Danville was fined $70,000 for allegedly improperly disposing of human body parts.

Since 1970, the board has levied fines against only six hospitals statewide. This is the first fine against St. Elizabeth's Hospital and no other hospital in the metro-east has been fined.

Other alleged violations include failing to:

* Maintain aisle space in the hazardous waste cage in the hospital's basement;

* Conduct weekly inspections;

* File necessary waste reports to state officials;

* Ensure all employees complete training in hazardous waste management, and,

* Maintain spill control equipment.

Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at dkelley@bnd.com or 618-239-2501.

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