Infectious hospital waste piling up in Metro Cebu
No permit for collector PASSI due to ‘violations’; Where will waste go?
More than 30,000 kilos of infectious waste from health care facilities across Metro Cebu have been uncollected for a month.
The Environment Management Bureau (EMB) did not grant a transport permit to collector Pollution Abatement Systems Specialist, Inc. (PASSI) for alleged violations.
Representatives of 37 hospitals, birthing homes and lying-in clinics yesterday called on the Cebu City government to help dispose of the waste.
“Our storage area could no longer accommodate our waste since we have insufficient storage space. We worry so much that this non-collection, even in a couple of days, will make the city reek with hospital waste,” said lawyer Rey Cris Panugaling, Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC) director for administration, who read part of their petition addressed to Cebu City Mayor Michael L. Rama during a press conference yesterday.
The infectious waste comes from delivery rooms, operating rooms, medical laboratories and extraction laboratories. This includes syringes, test tubes, blood, bandages, and cotton balls.
PASSI has not been able to collect the waste since March 18 this year because the EMB of of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-7) refused to issue a Transport Storage and Disposal (TSD) Certificate.
PASSI is no longer in the EMB’s list of accredited transporters of hazardous wastes as of February 28 this year. It has been engaged in health care waste and septage treatment for more than 11 years.
Engineer Cleofe M. Cortes, PASSI pollution officer, said an estimated 30,000 kilos of infectious waste from more than 100 medical facilities in Metro Cebu have not been collected since they failed to secure a transport permit.
DENR spokesman Eddie Llamedo said PASSI committed several violations since last year.
“We can’t issue a transport permit to haul hospital and other infectious wastes because PASSI was issued a cease-and-desist order last year for failure to show proof as to where they will dump the hospital waste,” he said.
“Pending the identification of a final disposal facility for hospital wastes by PASSI, we hold the issuance of transport permits. In the meantime, we ask the hospitals to be responsible for treating their wastes,” he added.
Llamedo said they will schedule a dialog among EMB officials, PASSI and hospital representatives to resolve the problem.
He said a Notice of Violation was issued to PASSI on Oct. 28, 2014 after the company failed to provide a proper manifest for transporting waste. This violates DENR Administrative Order 2013-22.
The company was also found collecting and treating waste even without an approved TSD permit. Each violation carries a fine of P50,000.
Llamedo said PASSI president Julito Pugoy committed during a technical conference on Nov. 11, 2014 to comply with the permit requirements in transporting waste, temporarily halt their operations and pay the P100,000 fine.
PASSI has yet to fulfill its commitment, Llamedo said.
Cortes, for her part, said they dispose of the hospital waste using autoclave technology in their facility in White Road, barangay Inayawan.
“After one hour, idugmok dayon siya unya i-dispose na dayon na,” she added. An autoclave uses heat and pressure to break down waste.
Cortes said their permit was withheld after an EMB team found during an inspection on March 23 that their waste water treatment facility lacked a dewatering unit and overflow pipes.
“We have already corrected it since March 24, but our permit is still on hold and DENR-EMB did not come back for a re-inspection. I also prepared our progress report,” she said in the same press conference.
She said the company spent almost P5 million to correct the deficiencies.
During the press conference yesterday, Panugaling said he and others who signed the petition were not taking sides. They just wanted to know how to deal with the problem.
Engineer Jocelyn Rosiefila Gonzales, Cebu Velez General Hospital pollution control officer, said they have been using the sealed concrete vaults in the expanded area of the hospital to store the waste.
She was worried about the health hazards that this poses because the storage area is near restaurants, a school and a market. Velez generates about 300 kilos of infectious waste a day.
“Infectious waste should be collected within six hours because after that it smells very bad),” she added.
For Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC), Antonio Tanudra from the housekeeping divsion said their storage area was 80 percent full as of yesterday.
“We are disinfecting it from time to time. Hopefully, this will be collected so that our storage area will not overflow,” he added.
Jade Ponce, head of the Cebu City Solid Waste Management Board, urged the EMB and PASSI to resolve the problem quickly.
“The city has no capability and we are not authorized by the DENR to collect such waste,” she said.
Rudy Alix of the Movement for Livable Cebu (MLC) said they plan to hold public hearings to discuss the different techniques and methods of waste management and disposal.
“Enough with the blame game,” he said.
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