Lawmakers Spurred to Action by Illegal Dumping That Closed Beaches Over 2008 Labor Day Weekend
Legislation Assemblymen Matthew Milam, Nelson Albano and Lou Greenwald sponsored to strip licenses from medical professionals and medical waste handling companies found guilty of violating the state’s medical waste anti-dumping laws was unanimously approved by the full Assembly 79-0 on Monday.
“Knowingly and purposefully dumping medical waste off our beaches is irresponsible and just plain stupid,” said Milam (D-Cumberland/Atlantic/Cape May). “Any doctor that would be so cavalier with the public’s health and safety should automatically forfeit their right to practice in New Jersey.”
“You don’t need a medical degree to know that used needles do not belong in our waterways or on our beaches,” said Albano (D-Cumberland/Atlantic/Cape May). “Anyone who fails that simple test of common sense shouldn’t be allowed to practice medicine in our state.”
“If you fine a doctor making a lot of money for beach dumping, he or she can do a mental cost-benefit analysis to see if the fine is enough of an incentive to stop,” said Greenwald (D-Camden). “However, if you take away their license for dumping, you take away their ability to make money, which is a much more effective deterrent.”
The sponsors said they introduced the measure after several South Jersey beaches were forced to close before 2008 Labor Day weekend after illegally dumped medical waste washed ashore. As many as 225 syringes and other medical waste were found in Avalon – leading borough officials to close beaches four times. Syringes also washed ashore in Berkeley, Ocean City, Sea Isle City, Brigantine and Upper Township.
Thomas McFarland, a Philadelphia dentist who owns a Jersey Shore summer home, was charged with intentionally dumping the waste that caused the Avalon closings. He received probation and was ordered to pay restitution.
The measure (A-1888) would suspend the license of any health care professional, medical waste facility, generator or transporter found in violation of New Jersey’s medical waste anti-dumping laws for three years. If a medical professional or waste handler continued to operate while under suspension, the appropriate state authority would permanently revoke their license. Otherwise, at the end of the three year suspension period they would be allowed to apply for reinstatement.
Medical professionals and waste handlers with suspended licenses would be placed on a newly created “Illegal Medical Waste Disposal License and Registration Revocation List” and would remain on the list until they were reinstated. Additionally, 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 its appropriate sister agency to ensure the offender faces the appropriate penalties in his or her state of operation.
This penalty would be in addition to existing penalties in place under the state’s “Penalty Enforcement Law of 1999,” “Comprehensive Regulated Medical Waste Management Act,” “Water Pollution Control Act” and “Ocean Dumping Enforcement Act,” which can carry penalties of up to $200,000 in fines and 20 years imprisonment for the most serious offenses.
The bill now awaits consideration by the Senate.