About Amy Umble:
Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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Medical waste from hospital has been clogging city’s sewer pump station

Medical waste from Mary Washington Hospital has been clogging a city sewer pump station in the office park beside the hospital.

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

Beverly Cameron, city manager, last month described the dumping as a “serious public health concern” and asked hospital officials 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 reimburse the city for its costs.

Since January, pumps at a city pump station in the office park below the hosptial have been clogged at least 12 times by hospital debris, according to a July 15 letter from Cameron to Rankin. The worst of these incidents 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 had to hire contractors to remove the pumps for emergency cleaning and pump waste around the station while it was off-line. 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 city staff is puzzled by how the material gets into the sewer lines at the hospital, and by how it gets through those lines without clogging them.

Hospital officials have been unavailable for comment today. In an Aug. 1 letter to Cameron, Rankin said that they have posted signs and sent memos to remind the staff of the proper way to dispose of medical waste.

(For more about hospital waste in the city sewer system, see the story soon in the paper.)