SAN DIEGO – A local company has joined the front lines of an effort that has sparked a lot of debate: how to dispose of Ebola waste.
A representative from Envitech just returned from Texas after the first batch of medical waste was disposed of this past weekend.
The spacesuit-like gear is just one reminder of how contagious Ebola can be. The virus attacks the organs and liquefies parts of the body, with blood and other liquids seeping out of all body openings.
The medical supplies used to treat the first U.S. Ebola patient, Thomas Duncan, arrived in a semi-truck at a Galveston facility on Saturday.
“It was kind of all hands on-deck,” said Andy Bartocci, national sales manager at Envitech. He says a company official flew into Texas this weekend.
Envitech’s scrubbing system was installed at the Galveston site earlier this year. Here is how it works: once the Ebola-tainted supplies are incinerated at more than 2,000 degrees, the scrubber removes all the pollutants from the exhaust gas.
“We were on hand as they were burning this waste and the system operated flawlessly throughout that time,” said Bartocci.
The air scrubbers are newly designed after more stringent EPA standards went into effect this month.
“Somebody is probably more exposed to harmful pollutants pumping gas into their automobile than they would be by working or living around one of the medical waste incinerators,” said Bartocci.
Still, some states do not want that waste. Missouri’s attorney general is seeking a court order barring the waste from being shipped to a St. Louis incinerator. Among the concerns is the handling before it gets into the incinerator.
As for California, the state has a ban on the burning of medical waste, so any Ebola waste would have to be shipped to another state on public highways.
Many states like California began cracking down on medical waste incineration because hospitals were sending materials that did not need to be burned, which led to more pollutants.
Some are calling for California to reconsider these restrictions when it comes to Ebola waste.