Waste hauler fined $75,000

Published 9:35 pm Thursday, September 3, 2009

The president of a now-defunct medical waste facility that operated on Nansemond Parkway says he was in the process of trying to get a transfer permit when he was shut down and fined $75,000.

“I had been working on that transfer permit,” Todd Schaubach, the president of the former American Transportation Systems, said. The company was formerly American Environmental Group.

The facility, located at 5474 Nansemond Parkway, was shut down in March 2008 after investigations by the state Department of Environmental Quality.

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On Jan. 23, 2008, the department received an anonymous pollution complaint alleging the company was operating a regulated medical waste facility at the Nansemond Parkway location without the proper permits. Companies that deal in regulated medical waste must have permits from the department to transfer, treat, store or dispose of the waste, which includes used needles, items contaminated with human blood and other used medical items.

In response to the complaint, the department inspected the facility the next day and observed staff unloading red bags labeled as regulated medical waste, with the biological hazard symbol, from carts into a large waste container outside the building, according to a consent order posted on the department’s Web site. Inside the facility, department staff found a large pile of medical waste about eight feet high, 40 feet wide and 60 feet long, with used needles and bloody rags spilling from broken bags and containers. The building had no door, refrigeration or approved regulated medical waste sanitary sewer system.

The day after their visit, staff met with Schaubach and advised him of what they had observed.

In the next week, department staff visited twice more and found operations continuing as before. On Feb. 4, 2008, Schaubach was advised to cease operations and remove the medical waste. The next week, DEQ staff again visited and found the same amount of waste stored inside the building.

DEQ alleges 10 violations of state administrative code regulations, including failure to limit access to the warehouse, refrigerate waste that was stored greater than seven days, and store the material on a clean, impermeable floor, and advised Schaubach of the violations Feb. 6, 2008.

By Feb. 22, DEQ staff found that management activities at the site had stopped, the floor had been cleaned and pressure washed, and there were no remaining signs of blood or blood products on the warehouse floor.

Also in February 2008, Schaubach was served notice of violation from the city that he was violating his conditional use permit because he did not have the proper authorization from DEQ, said Cindy Taylor, who works in the city’s planning department.

Schaubach was ordered by DEQ to pay $75,000 in fines over the next five years. In a phone interview Thursday, he acknowledged not having a permit to transfer the waste, but said extenuating circumstances forced him to store the waste there for a couple of weeks until it could be taken care of.

“I’m truly sorry that happened through a whole lot of extenuating circumstances,” he said. “I made a bad judgment, was forced into a couple things. If I had it to do over, I would have done it differently.”

Schaubach said his staff took all the precautions they could, and added that nothing on the building or property should be contaminated.

“We did make every attempt, in that short period of time, to manage properly,” he said.

Schaubach’s new waste company now operates from a facility in Norfolk, and they also have a plant in North Carolina.

“We’ve taken care of it and corrected it,” he said. “We have a plant in shape and a great group behind us.”