2008-12-11 / Front Page

Medical waste dumped at transfer station

By Sam Bari

Public Works employee Harry Curfman, right, and Town Councilman Bill Kelly inspect medical waste and trash that were found in the compost pile at the transfer station on Monday. Photo by Andrea von Hoheleiten Public Works employee Harry Curfman, right, and Town Councilman Bill Kelly inspect medical waste and trash that were found in the compost pile at the transfer station on Monday. Photo by Andrea von Hoheleiten The Jamestown Police are investigating the source of medical material that was illegally dumped in the town's compost pile sometime between late Sunday afternoon and early Monday morning.

When Department of Public Works employees Brian Dutra and Harry Curfman began their workday at the transfer station Monday, they found what the disposal industry refers to as putrescible waste in the compost pile.

"It was a white garbage bag that had broken open and the contents had spilled out," said Town Councilman William Kelly, who was at the landfill when the waste was discovered.

The problem was further complicated when Dutra and Curfman inspected more closely and found pathological, or medical, waste consisting of IV bags, tubing and needles mixed in with the garbage.

The garbage stood out to the workers because most of the material in the pile is either black or brown and even when yard waste is left in the pile, it must either be in biodegradable compost bags or dumped out from plastic bags.

"It wasn't like someone could have done this accidentally by putting garbage in with yard waste because they are supposed to dump out plastic bags, so they would have spotted it as it was dumped out. This was done intentionally," Kelly said.

Amidst the waste were envelopes with addresses on them that were turned over to police to aid them in their investigation.

"Just because the envelopes had someone's name on them and showed up with the waste, does not mean that it was actually their waste or they were the one's responsible for putting it there," Jamestown Police Lt. William Donovan said.

The waste could have been dumped by a contractor, trash hauler or someone helping to move the trash to the landfill, Donovan said.

The site to dispose of trash at the landfill is less than 50 yards from the compost pile, Kelly said. "It is possible that they do not have a dump sticker, so rather than get one and dispose of the trash legally, they just tossed it in the compost pile."

"I went to Town Hall and checked the ordinances. I found that we have laws in place that prohibit this kind of activity. However, the fines for dumping illegal waste are only $100," Kelly said. "This is not enough," he added.

Kelly has asked Town Administrator Bruce Keiser to have the matter put on the Town Council meeting agenda to increase the amount of the fines.

According to Kelly, illegal dumping of waste can cause considerable difficulty for the town. If the illegal garbage was shipped to the landfill mixed in with the compost material, the town could have been fined and held responsible for the cost of reloading and hauling the garbage back to Jamestown.

Kelly said he was adamant about pursuing the matter because this type of activity can seriously jeopardize the town's recycling efforts. He said that the town residents, the DPW, Town Administrator Keiser and even local businesses like Jamestown Hardware and the Secret Garden have all worked together to improve the town's recycling program.

The Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation has returned more than $36,000 in grants and other funding to the town for recycling efforts, Kelly said. "To undermine this relationship by illegally dumping a load of household and medical waste is totally irresponsible," he added.

"The more we recycle, the more money the town will save," Kelly said. "Besides, it is the right thing to do."

Town officials were quick to reassure citizens that the dumping did not contaminate the compost pile. The part of the pile that contained the waste was removed from the pile to the landfill, Kelly said. Landfill workers turn the compost regularly to ensure even cooking of the material, so any waste in the pile is observed and removed quickly.

"The matter remains under investigation," Lt. Donovan said, adding, "We will find out who is responsible and we will bring them to task."

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