Medical waste incinerator shut down
Pollution exceeded provincial limits
Alberta Health Services may be looking for a new disposal site for tonnes of medical waste after an incinerator in Wainwright shut down by local officials last week due to air pollution concerns.
The Wainwright incinerator was shut down after emissions of toxic dioxins and furans were found to be above the provincial limits, said Ted Wilkinson, board chair of the municipal Waste to Energy Authority that owns the facility.
“Our plan was to shut down at the end of this year, but we were struggling this spring to meet the emission limits,” Wilkinson told the Journal.
“We had also hoped there would be an alternative facility in place, but unfortunately there is not.”
About 90 per cent of the province’s medical waste — used equipment, old pills and body parts — has been burned in Wainwright since the 1990s.
It’s unclear what AHS is doing with the medical waste now that the facility is closed as AHS officials were not available Sunday to comment. Alberta Environment officials also were unable to comment on the closure.
One option could be the Swan Hills hazardous waste treatment plant, a publicly owned facility. Months ago, SENA Waste Services, which operates the plant, said it could easily handle the AHS waste stream as the facility is operating at 35-to 40-per cent capacity.
SENA hopes to put in a bid for the waste stream but is waiting for Alberta Environment to amend the Swan Hills licence to include medical waste, manager Donald Freckleton said at the time.
However, Edmonton-based G-M Pearson, the biomedical waste company that operated the now closed Wainwright facility, has proposed a new, much larger incinerator in Ryley.
Recently, Beaver County turned down the G-M Pearson application and an appeal hearing is underway.
Opponents of the Ryley plant hope the Wainwright shut down will mean AHS will send the waste to Swan Hills.
“Now that Wainwright is closed, will (Health Minister) Stephen Mandel take the opportunity to endorse sending the waste to Swan Hills?” asked Joe Wigington, spokesperson for a group of Ryley residents opposed to a proposed new incinerator in that town.
Ryley residents are concerned about air pollution and argue that it saves taxpayers money to send the waste to the publicly owned Swan Hills facility.
Wilkinson had no comment on what will happen to AHS waste now that the Wainwright facility has been shut down.
“That’s up to the company that has the contract with AHS,” he said.
G-M Pearson owner Joe Kress did not return phone calls