Limb discovery in landfill leads to fines

Limb discovery in landfill leads to fines

NSW EPA has issued fines totalling $16,000 to two organisations for the improper disposal of clinical waste.

Hunter New England Local Health District $8,000 and Specialised Waste Treatment Services Pty Ltd both received penalties of $8,000 on 4 October for their disposal clinical waste at Summerhill Waste Management Centre in Wallsend, near Newcastle. The lower fines reflected the NSW EPA’s findings that the actions had not been deliberate.

In addition, both organisations must audit and report back to NSW EPA on their waste management systems and procedures.

A bulldozer unearthed the waste during routine work at the landfill site this past February. The items included various forms of clinical waste and the discovery of two human limbs.

In undertaking the investigation, NSW EPA officers investigated the chain of disposal including examining relevant transportation, hospital and waste records, and consulted a forensic pathologist. They concluded that the clinical waste originated from anatomical bins at the mortuary and pathology departments of John Hunter Hospital. This type of waste should have been incinerated and was instead incorrectly classified as appropriate for landfill, which indicated a lack of clear procedures between John Hunter Hospital and Specialised Waste Treatment Services.

NSW EPA Manager Waste Compliance Cate Woods said: “This incident was a combination of inadequate separation, classification and disposal of waste which should have been incinerated.

“It’s important for organisations to strictly adhere to the requirements around clinical waste, not only to reduce risks to the environment and the community, but also to avoid potentially distressing situations, like this one,” she added.

Details about requirements for disposal of clinical waste in NSW can be found on the NSW EPA website.

Newcastle City Council operates the Summerhill Waste Management Centre and was not the subject of any regulatory action as a result of the NSW EPA investigation.