Missouri is making yet another run at cracking down on medical-waste incineration.
As MODERN HEALTHCARE reported earlier this year (Feb. 28, p. 10), hospitals and industry came out the victors in a three-year court battle with the state Department of Natural Resources. A Missouri appeals court said the state can't issue regulations under its air-pollution law until the federal government unveils its own rules governing medical-waste incineration. The state rules also can't be tougher than the federal government's, the court declared.
New federal standards for medical-waste incineration, authorized by the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, haven't been published yet.
In May, the Cole County Circuit Court found the Department of Natural Resources in contempt of court for trying to circumvent the appeals court decision by issuing its rules under solid-waste law rather than air-pollution statutes. Hospitals briefly thought they were off the hook.
Last month, however, the state told the Circuit Court it would appeal the contempt judgment. The state expects to file the appeal as soon as it receives the court records, said Timothy Duggan, an assistant attorney general. A hearing might come as early as fall, Mr. Duggan said.
Meanwhile, the federal Environmental Protection Agency recently said it will propose regulations for medical-waste incineration no later than February 1995 and complete them by April 1996.
Conflicting state and federal rules might force hospitals to take costly and unnecessary steps, the Missouri Hospital Association argued in its lawsuit. Many of the its 140 members operate medical-waste incinerators. In 1991, some members said it would cost them from $500 to $500,000 per medical-waste incinerator, depending on its condition, to meet the state regulations then proposed.