Safety concerns key issue for residents at Tuesday public meeting on medical waste treatment facility in Spartanburg

An attorney, an official from a sensible growth advocacy group and a few community residents who gathered at Broome High School on Tuesday evening for a public meeting on a proposed medical waste treatment facility voiced concerns that the safety of the technology that would be used there is unproven.

Spartanburg attorney Gary Poliakoff, citing TreatMed’s draft permit from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control to open a facility on Franke Drive in Spartanburg County, told a group of about 40 people that there are too many unanswered questions to allow the company to have a permit that would be effective for a decade.

Poliakoff said a group of area residents asked him to look into the company’s proposal.

TreatMed’s sister company, ECODAS, which builds the machines that TreatMed proposes to use to sterilize medical waste, has machines in use in 60 countries, according to company officials.

But TreatMed does not have a facility in the U.S., and ECODAS technology has not yet been used in this country.

TreatMed wants to win DHEC’s approval to open a waste treatment facility on Franke Drive, about a mile from the Cannon’s Campground community where many families blame previous chemical dumping by another company for dozens of cancer cases.

“What’s being proposed here is to bring in all this infectious waste by a company with no apparent track record,” Poliakoff said of TreatMed’s proposal.

The then-mayor and city council in Fairburn, Ga., rejected TreatMed’s proposal to open a facility there in 2009.

Poliakoff added that TreatMed has so far not addressed a number of safety questions relating to possible exposure points during the handling of medical waste.

The attorney said allowing TreatMed to open the facility will negatively affect quality of life and property values in the community.

DHEC officials said TreatMed would have to pass the state agency’s tests before starting operations, and company officials said this layer of scrutiny should be enough to ease community concerns.

Susan Jenkins, manager of DHEC’s Infectious Waste Program, said the agency has three staff members dedicated to inspecting waste treatment facilities in South Carolina.

She said DHEC inspects large quantity facilities like the one TreatMed wants to open about once every two years.

If approved, the DHEC permit will allow the company to store and treat infectious medical waste that will be shredded and sterilized using pressurized steam.

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