Envitech recently got noticed in a local news story by Michael Chen of Channel 10 News, “Local Company Helps Dispose of Ebola-tainted Waste”. The story talks about the challenges of processing Ebola waste and how Envitech’s Medical Waste Incinerator Scrubber at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) was used to dispose of waste generated by an Ebola patient in Texas.
Medical Waste Incinerator Scrubber Used to Process Ebola Waste
UTMB operates the only permitted medical waste incinerator in the state of Texas. Since 1991 the facility has operated an incinerator which uses an Envitech wet scrubber system to clean the exhaust gases of harmful pollutants. A new incinerator system was recently installed to meet the new EPA rules promulgated for the hospital, medical, and infectious waste incinerator (HMIWI) maximum achievable control technology (MACT) standard. The impact of these rules is discussed in a previous blog post.
The outlet emission requirements of the new standards are a significant reduction from the previous 1997 standards. The allowable outlet emissions for many of the metals, i.e. lead (Pd), Cadmium (Cd) are less than 1% of the previous emission limits. For example, the allowable concentrations for Pb,and Cd are measured in 10-7 and 10-8 gr/dscf, respectively. These are some of the lowest HAPs emission limits for industrial sources in the United States. Medical Waste Scrubber Below is a summary performance guarantee for the new scrubber system based on the new HMIWI standard:
- PM < 18.3 mg/dscm (0.008 gr/dscf)
- Lead < 0.00069 mg/dscm (3.0 x 10-7 gr/dscf)
- Cd < 0.00013 mg/dscm (5.7 x 10-8 gr/dscf)
- HCl < 5.1 ppmv dry
- SO2 < 8.1 ppmv dry
- Dioxins/Furans < 0.035 ng/dscm on TEQ basis
Recent episodes of processing highly infectious waste from Ebola patients may re-ignite a policy debate on medical waste disposal. In the early 1990, many hospitals were going to a model of owning and operating a relatively small medical waste incinerator to process and destroy medical waste generated in-house. These systems typically have a capacity of 500 to 1,500 lb/hr. As air emission standards became stricter, many hospitals decided to shut down their incinerators and ship their waste to larger, centralized medical waste incinerators. These systems are much larger in capacity. For example, the largest medical waste incinerator facility is in Baltimore, MD with a permitted capacity of 150 ton/hr. The trade-off of a centralized waste incinerator is the risk and liability of transporting the waste on public roads and highways. The recent Ebola outbreaks bring to light that some of this waste can be highly infectious and pose a significantly greater risk to public health. It also came to light that a single Ebola patient generates a substantial amount of infectious waste. In this scenario, it may make more sense for facilities to have the capacity to destroy their own waste and avoid the risk of transporting it over great distances on public roads.
The advancement of scrubber technology and compliance with the new, more stringent EPA MACT standards, confirm the ability to operate medical waste incinerators with virtually no harmful emissions into the air. In addition to the UTMB medical waste scrubber system, Envitech has upgraded several other medical waste incinerators for meeting the new standards. Based on the extreme low emission limits, the results are truly groundbreaking and may encourage states and facilities to permit new systems.