The Washington Department of Ecology found that St. Joseph’s:
- Inappropriately disposed of dangerous waste by shipping it to a facility not licensed to handle that type of waste.
- Had staff not properly trained to handle waste.
- Failed to submit a dangerous waste report to Ecology.
- Failed to conduct or document weekly inspections of waste storage areas.
Hospitals deal with a variety of pharmaceuticals that can contain toxic ingredients. Even though these drugs are intended to help patients, they need to be properly handled and disposed of after use to prevent harm to the environment, or threatening the health of other people.
Initially, Ecology set the fine for the violations at $24,000. However, Ecology reduced the penalty based on the hospital’s past history of compliance and willingness to address the violations. Under the settlement, St. Joseph’s agrees to not appeal the fine, avoiding potentially costly litigation for both parties.
“Improperly managing hazardous waste can lead to environmental damage, and can threaten human health,” said Darin Rice, manager of Ecology’s Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction program. “We appreciate the hospital’s efforts to find a fast resolution to these issues and their desire to make sure violations of this nature do not happen again,”
At this time, the hospital has addressed all the issues found during the inspection.
“PeaceHealth takes its responsibility to the environment very seriously. As soon as the issues were identified we took immediate steps to ensure our processes for waste disposal are in full compliance with state law,” said St. Joseph’s Chief Operating Officer Cherie Martin.