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Gill-Sarlo Bill To Strip Licenses From Professionals, Companies That Illegally Dump Medical Waste Advances

A view of the Senate Chambers from the 2010-2011 Senate Reorganization.

Stems From Illegal Dumping Incident That Closed Beaches Over 2008 Labor Day Weekend

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Nia H. Gill (D-Essex) and Paul A. Sarlo (D-Bergen) to allow the state to revoke or suspend the license of medical professionals and waste handling companies found guilty of violating the state’s medical waste anti-dumping laws was approved today by the Senate Commerce Committee.

“Medical waste illegally dumped into our waters or onshore is a hazard that places the health and safety of the public, as well as our environment, at risk,” said Senator Gill, chair of the Senate Commerce Committee. “This will provide the state with the means to not only file criminal charges and recoup costs for damages incurred, but also to bar these bad actors from doing business in New Jersey.”

The measure (S-2190) stems from a 2008 incident in which several New Jersey beaches were forced to close before Labor Day weekend after medical waste washed ashore. Approximately 260 syringes, cotton swabs and other medical waste were found in Avalon, Cape May County, leading borough officials to close the beaches numerous times. Thomas McFarland Jr., a Philadelphia dentist who owns a Jersey Shore summer home, was charged with intentionally dumping the waste that caused the Avalon closings. He admitted to taking his small motor boat into an inlet in the borough and dumping a bag of waste from his dental practice in Wynnewood, Pa. McFarland received four years probation and was ordered to pay $100,000 in restitution to the borough of Avalon.

“Our state beaches are among our state’s greatest assets, attracting hundreds of thousands of tourists from across the country each year. Dumping medical waste in our waterways is an egregious act that threatens the reputation of our state and an industry that supports jobs for New Jersey workers and generates billions of dollars for the economy,” said Senator Sarlo (D-Bergen). “We need to send a message that improper disposal of medical waste will not be tolerated and will result in severe punishment. Any individual or company that engages in this conduct will risk losing the ability to practice in New Jersey.”

The bill would allow the license suspension or revocation of certain health care professionals and medical waste facilities, generators, and transporters for the willful, illegal, or improper disposal of medical waste. If, after a hearing, the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection and the Commissioner of the Department of Health and Senior Services determine that a health care professional or a medical waste facility, generator, or transporter violated the State’s medical waste anti-dumping laws, and the violation was related to the willful, illegal, or improper disposal of regulated medical waste, the departments could suspend or revoke the violator’s registration or license. Upon completion of a term of suspension, the violator may, after a hearing, reapply to the department to have their license, registration, or authorization to operate in this State reissued.

Under the bill, if the professional or handler found to be illegally dumping is not a New Jersey-based company, the state Office of the Attorney General would contact the appropriate agency in the offender’s state within 30 days to ensure that he or she faces the appropriate penalties. Likewise, if the Attorney General receives information that a transporter or facility has violated a medical waste law in another state, the Attorney General must give the information to the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Health and Senior Services for a possible hearing to consider the suspension or revocation of any license, registration or authorization to operate in the State.

The committee approved the measure by a vote of 6-0. It now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

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