PITTSFIELD – A proposal to build a plant that would steam-heat medical waste, then shred it into disposable confetti will be considered at a state public hearing next week.
Backers say the facility would save hospitals such as Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor and Sebasticook Valley Hospital in Pittsfield hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees they have been paying to truck the waste to out-of-state landfills.
The multimillion-dollar Pittsfield facility was the Maine Hospital Association’s response to disposal costs that have risen at least 20 percent a year for the past six years. Association members decided to combine their resources and build their own plant.
A spokesman for SteriLogic, the company that would build the plant, said the 39 hospitals generate about 190,000 pounds of waste a month, compared with some New York City hospitals that produce that amount in a day.
The state Department of Environmental Protection is planning the hearing, which it requires as part of the project’s filing application. DEP oversees the handling of all medical waste. The hearing will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 28, at the Pittsfield Municipal Building. It is designed to allow residents to be heard regarding the construction of the facility, the first such facility of its kind in the country, in the Pittsfield Industrial Park,.
“This will be exactly what we have done several times before,” SteriLogic spokesman Chris Kerr said Tuesday. “Except the Maine Department of Environmental Protection wasn’t involved before.”
Backers say the location of the plant would be a boon to Pittsfield. Along with creating 10 jobs for area workers, the plant would be constructed in a “speculation building” that has been vacant for 14 years.
The SteriLogic treatment plant is a project of Associated Health Resources, a cooperative formed by the Maine Hospital Association, to serve the waste needs of its members.
The Pittsfield plant is expected to be running within the first few months of 2005.
SteriLogic bought the building for $120,000, $18,360 of which came to Pittsfield and $101,640 went to the original financier, the state Department of Economic and Community Development.
Earlier this year, Kerr outlined the project and its operation for town councilors, who then changed the town’s zoning regulations to allow such a facility to be constructed in the industrial park. Similar facilities exist in other countries but this is the first of its type to be built in the United States.
The waste to be treated includes blankets, linens, sharps and needles. Nothing will be incinerated, which is prohibited by state law. The facility would be regulated by nine agencies, according to Kerr. One to two trucks a day would serve the business, which would make use of steam to superheat a stainless steel hydroclave to 270 degrees Fahrenheit. Kerr said a manager for the facility, Michael McIntyre of Palmyra, has been hired and SteriLogic began servicing the 33 Maine hospitals on Sept. 1. Until the Pittsfield facility is built, however, the waste is trucked out of state.