Pollution Control Board asks Corporation to ensure they dispose of biomedical waste safely

The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) has written to the Chennai Corporation asking it to ensure that small clinics send their biomedical waste to common treatment facilities. If they do not, their licences should be cancelled, it said.

For details, see infographic at left.

“Though small clinics are not covered under the Biomedical Waste (Handling and Management) Rules, 1998, it is essential to create a mechanism for them so that the biomedical waste they generate is also treated properly. If the clinics do not dispose of such hazardous waste safely, the Corporation, which is their licensing authority, should cancel their licences,” a source at TNPCB said.

According to estimates, there are over 2,000 private clinics in and around the city and most dispose of their biomedical waste comprising syringes, needles, cotton dressing and used injection vials along with regular municipal waste — a practice experts say poses hazards for conservancy workers and leads to toxicity in the soil and groundwater.

Verify, then penalise

Sources said the Board has asked the Corporation to first verify if such clinics are disposing of their biomedical waste through any common treatment facility, and if not, refuse to clear regular solid waste from their premises as a first step towards penalising them.

If the clinics still did not dispose of their biomedical waste properly, their licenses could be cancelled.

The Board has also written to zonal officers asking them to strictly instruct clinics to dispose of biomedical waste safely.

A general practitioner in Old Washermenpet said that in many clinics the practice was for the ayah to collect the syringes and once a week give them to a recycler who separated the plastics, needles and rubber parts.

“The doctor does not get any money from this sale. The cotton and dressings end up along with the general waste. If a system of collection is introduced, most general practitioners definitely would not mind paying a nominal charge for it,” he said.

‘Agencies can collect’

A senior member of the Indian Medical Association – Tamil Nadu, said clinics and small laboratories should be responsible and dispose of their waste in a scientific way.

“There are treatment facilities near Chennai. The agencies already collecting biomedical waste from large hospitals can collect waste from these clinics every few days. The charges can be fixed according to the weight of the waste,” he said.

All such clinics should also have needle shredders, he added.

Guidelines needed

A Corporation official said, “The TNPCB needs to give us detailed guidelines to put in place a mechanism for small clinics. Specialised kind of waste requires specific guidelines. It has been quite a task to discipline even major hospitals that have the resources and the personnel to deal with waste. With small clinics, the task will be even tougher.”

There are a total of 5,600 hospitals and nursing homes in the State and a total of 33,024 kg of biomedical waste is collected and processed from them every day, according to a source at TNPCB.

There are 11 common biomedical waste treatment facilities in the State, and one more is coming up in Tiruvallur.

Under the procedure for disposal of hazardous waste, hospitals have to segregate the waste at source, store it colour-coded bags, not store waste for more than 24 hours and treat liquid waste before letting it into the sewer system.

Consents obtained

Last year, TNPCB had issued showcause notices to several hospitals including a few government-run institutions in the city, asking them why they should not be shut down for not obtaining mandatory consents to operate.

As most hospitals use diesel generators, it is mandatory for them to obtain consent to operate under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981. Similarly, consent is a must under the Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 since these institutions also discharge liquid waste.

TNPCB sources said that following the notices, most hospitals in the State had obtained the necessary consents.

“We have also asked biomedical waste collection agencies to install GPS on the trucks that pick up biomedical waste, install power backup at their facilities, create secure landfills and install CCTV cameras around the site,” the source said.

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