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Local Politicians Oppose Expansion of Medical Waste Company

By Eddie Small | November 24, 2014 2:04pm
 Trucks at the Stericycle facility in the South Bronx.
Trucks at the Stericycle facility in the South Bronx.
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DNAinfo/Eddie Small

PORT MORRIS — What's the plan for dealing with flooding at a company that stores human organs, discarded blood and used hypodermic needles in The Bronx?

There isn't one, according to local politicians, who are now calling on the state to rein in controversial company Stericycle.

Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo, Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo, State Senator Jose M. Serrano and Congressman Jose E. Serrano all signed a letter to the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation urging the agency to not let the company Stericycle renew or expand the permit for its medical waste transfer station at 910 East 138th St. in The Bronx because they said the company has been a bad neighbor.

The letter, addressed to Commissioner Joseph Martens, lays out a host of concerns that the politicians have with the facility, including a fear that some of the materials it stores could lead to asthma—already a large problem for the borough—and the company’s lack of a contingency plan for flooding.

“When asked about mitigation measures to protect the community from the medical waste … for which they are seeking a permit, the company responded that they have no mitigation plan in place and that the waste is stored on a three foot platform, which should be a sufficient measure,” the letter reads.

“This is an inadequate response that demonstrates this company's ambivalent nature as it relates to the community and supports the idea that permit renewal would be inappropriate at this time,” it continues.

Stericycle is looking to renew the operating permit, issued by the DEC, that allows its South Bronx facility to act as a waste transfer station.

The company also hopes to alter its permit to allow it to transfer materials defined as hazardous wastes, such as developer solutions that result from X-ray processing.

Currently, Stericycle mainly handles regulated medical waste, which New York defines as including materials like body organs, discarded blood and hypodermic needles.

At a heated Oct. 7 meeting regarding these plans, Maria del Carmen Arroyo was dismayed to learn that Stericycle has already been handling hazardous waste on the trucks at its Port Morris facility for eight years.

The company says this is legal, according to the letter, but the politicians took it as a sign that Stericycle had been disingenuous with the community regarding its practices at the facility.

The company is currently under investigation by the Utah Attorney General's office in the wake of reports that the amount of medical waste burned by the company violated state law, and it settled for $2.4 million with the New York Attorney General's office in January 2013 for improperly overcharging almost 1,000 New York government agencies throughout the state, including schools, hospitals and fire departments.

Councilwoman Arroyo met with representatives of the state Attorney General's office to discuss concerns regarding Stericycle's business practices, a council spokeswoman said.

New York Attorney General Eric Scheiderman has received inquiries from the community regarding the company in the past few weeks, a spokeswoman said, but she would not specify what these questions were about.

The DEC is currently reviewing Stericycle's application, as well as comments raised at the community meeting and Stericycle's response to those comments, according to spokeswoman Lori Severino.

Stericycle declined to comment.

"The South Bronx deserves a good neighbor that will respect the community's needs and concerns," Jose M. Serrano said. "I cannot support a company that operates in such a detrimental fashion."