Mansfield City Council puts hold on medical waste facilities

08/26/2014 12:00 AM

08/25/2014 10:58 PM

The City Council voted unanimously Monday to put a 120-day hold on permits for medical waste facilities in Mansfield after a Dallas company came under fire for proposing a site in the city’s industrial park.

The council also unanimously opposed the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality granting a permit for RedAway LLC in the city.

“We have 120 days to work with the city,” said Justin Smith, CEO of RedAway. “We will do everything we can to please the citizens.”

The city opposes the TCEQ permit because it does not think the facility suits the land use, there is not adequate security, inadequate staff, liquid waste will be discharged in the public sewage system and there is no odor management plan, said City Attorney Allen Taylor. The 120-day moratorium will give city staff time to study the standards and safeguards for a medical waste facility, Taylor said.

Residents, school district and city officials questioned RedAway’s disposal processes, experience and competency during a public hearing at City Hall on Thursday.

"This would be a disaster," said Mike Slataper, CEO of Ramtech Building Systems, which is also in the industrial park. "This was a mistake to even consider this piece of property."

The 15,000-square-foot vacant building RedAway proposes to lease is at 208 Sentry Drive, less than a mile and a half from Annette Perry Elementary School, six other school district-owned property sites, hundreds of homes and a new development that will add 1,700 more houses.

After the public hearing, the TCEQ decided to extend the public comment period for 30 days. The final decision on whether the TCEQ will issue a permit will be made after that by the commission’s executive director Richard Hyde. Anyone who would like to voice an opinion about the facility should contact Hyde, Mayor David Cook said Monday.

At Thursday’s meeting, citizens questioned the effects the facility could have on residents.

"No one can say what the health ramifications will be," said Houston Mitchell of Mansfield. "Do we want to take this chance with our children? I don’t live anywhere near this facility, but I feel for the people who do. I don’t want to see them sick."

RedAway CEO Justin Smith defended his company.

"Nothing in me thinks this is dirty or unclean," Smith said. "I wouldn’t have left a good business for that."

The company, which currently has 120 clients, picks up Sharps Containers -- medical boxes that hold needles, drug vials, non-narcotic drugs and other medical waste. RedAway’s proposed facility would have an autoclave that would heat the medical waste and dispose of it within 72 hours.

The facility would not have an incinerator, so the company could not dispose of biological and pathological waste, such as body parts, narcotic drugs or infectious waste, Smith said. The company could store biological and pathological waste for 90 days in a secure refrigerated container outside the building, Smith said, before transporting it to a medical waste facility with an incinerator.

Joe Smolinski, the city’s director of utilities, visited a medical waste company in Garland similar to RedAway’s proposed facility.

"There was an odor," Smolinski said. "We called it cooking garbage."

The odor is caused by steam from the garbage, said Angel Aguilar, co-owner of Bondtech Corporation, which makes equipment for medical waste facilities. Aguilar is acting as a consultant for RedAway.

"You control the odor by controlling the liquid," Aguilar said. "That steam comes from the garbage. We don’t release steam into the atmosphere. The percentage of fluid is less than 3 percent."

That liquid would be released into the sewer system, he said.

"If it would please the public, we could test the waste water once a month," Aguilar said.

"It would please the public," Smolinski replied.

RedAway currently has three employees, including Smith, but expects to eventually have 13-20 employees, Smith said.

"We’re talking about the future," City Manager Clayton Chandler said. "For three jobs, why should we take the risk? Why would this city want to take the risk of infectious materials for any number of jobs?"

No one spoke at Thursday’s public hearing or Monday’s council meeting in favor of the medical waste facility. Residents and businesses around the site were polled and none objected to the facility, said Scott Welmaker, Mansfield Economic Development Corp. director.

The MEDC contributed $53,000 to help the building’s owner, W.C. Jennings Co., bring it up to code, Welmaker said.

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