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Medical waste clogs sewers
Medical trash from Mary Washington Hospital is being dumped in the city sewer system. Two times it has clogged a city pump station.

Date published: 8/11/2011


Workers at Mary Washington Hospital have been dumping medical waste in the city sewer system, including two recent cases when used bandages, gloves and syringes clogged a city pump station.

Beverly Cameron, city manager, described the dumping as a "serious public health concern."

In a letter to hospital officials, he said the material threatens to cause "backups, flooding and associated health issues" in the office park next to the pump station.

Cameron asked hospital officials to determine where the material was coming from and to stop it.

Fred Rankin, president and chief executive officer for Mary Washington Healthcare, apologized to the city for the dumping and this month sent the city a check for $6,781 to cover costs.

The payment is the latest chapter in a longstanding problem the city has had with hospital workers flushing medical waste into the sewers.

Hospital waste clogged the city pumping system several years ago, causing sewage overflows, according to a July 15 letter from Cameron to Rankin.

"The cleanup costs were significant and were paid by the city," Cameron said.

The city complained to the hospital, and the flow of debris eased but never stopped.

The problem got worse again this year. Since January, city pumps have been clogged at least 12 times by hospital debris, according to Cameron's letter.

The worst of these blockages happened on April 15 and June 29, said Doug Fawcett, director of public works for the city.

On those days, the amount of material flowing from the hospital was so great that it shut down the city pumps. The city hired contractors to remove the pumps for emergency cleaning and to pump around the station while it was off-line. The cost of that work was $6,781.

The hospital waste included bandages, gloves, tape, medical waste bags, trash bags, syringes, towels and other material.

Fawcett said the volume of material from the hospital has been so great that the city staff is puzzled by how the material gets into the sewer lines at the hospital, and how it gets through those lines without clogging them.

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