VA to establish $500K waste system

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BOSTON (AP) – The Veterans Administration has agreed to spend at least $500,000 to establish a waste management inventory system to handle chemicals and hazardous materials at its New England facilities, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday.

The VA also will pay a $49,748 fine as part of the settlement with the EPA, which stems from a violation at its White River Junction, Vt., medical center.

The subject of the violation was potentially explosive ether and picric acid found stored in clinical laboratory and pathology areas during a 2003 inspection.

During the inspection, parts of the hospital were evacuated and temporarily closed because of concerns about potential risks posed to patients, hospital staff and visitors.

The materials – which a disposal company said had the explosive equivalent of several sticks of dynamite – were removed from the hospital and detonated.

The inventory system will track chemical purchase, use and disposal and serve as a pilot project that could be applied to other hospitals, public and private, officials said.

“Developing a reliable system for hospitals to track hazardous wastes can have big impacts across the country by helping hospital directors reduce use of hazardous chemicals and reduce pollution,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England region, which employs 9,000 people and has eight hospitals and 37 outpatient clinics.

The VA’s other New England hosptals are located in Augusta, Maine, Manchester, N.H., Providence, R.I., West Haven, Conn., and Bedford, Boston and Northampton, Mass.

A VA official said no patients were hurt as a result of the violation, which wasn’t filed until 2005. She said the waste inventory system is a major undertaking.

“This is not a simple system to come by. There are many avenues by which materials can enter a health care system and be non-hazardous but be hazardous by the time they are exiting the system,” said Dr. Jeannette Chirico-Post, director of the VA’s New England health care network.

AP-ES-01-24-07 1554EST

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