Medical waste has been washing up on New Jersey beaches more frequently this summer and Congressman Frank Pallone (D-6) and environmentalists want to turn the tide.
So, Pallone has reintroduced a bill, the Medical Waste Management Act of 2013, that would crack down on ocean polluters and impose stricter regulations on medical waste disposal.
Pallone held a press conference in Pier Village on Thursday to explain the bill.
“The medical waste found on New Jersey’s shores last week was fortunately limited enough that staff could respond quickly to remove it, but next time we may not be so lucky," Pallone said. "My legislation will ensure consistency and clarity within the law so we can put an end to interstate dumping."
Clean Ocean Action Executive Director Cindy Zipf, who joined Pallone at the press conference, was irked that enforcement of medical waste dumping has "slipped" in recent years and called for swift action.
She called attention to the fact that medical syringes washed up on the beaches of Long Branch and Island Beach State Park last weekend.
"There shouldn't be more needles on our beach than at an HMO," NJ Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel interjected. "A day at the beach should not mean a trip to the doctor's office."
According to a press release from Pallone, provisions in the Medical Waste Management Act include:
- Outlining specific requirements for generators, transporters and disposers of medical waste, including registration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and appropriate compliance with labeling, packaging and storage requirements of the waste;
- Providing civil and criminal enforcement authority necessary to prevent medical waste dumping on our beaches;
- Granting the EPA the authority to investigate these crimes and provides them the necessary resources to take swift action;
- Providing grants for state and local governments, non-profit organizations and private entities to increase access to disposal methods;
- Requiring an annual report to Congress on the state of medical waste management;
- Authorizing the EPA to approve state medical waste programs that are at least as rigorous as federal requirements to ensure national consistency and set minimum standards.