Medical-Waste Firm Takes on California

FRESNO, Calif. (CN) – A medical-waste disposal company claims in a federal complaint that California is trying to control how it disposes of waste generated in California but disposed of in other states.

Daniels Sharpsmart sued the California Department of Public Health and its Medical Waste Management Program on Monday, claiming the state’s attempt to interfere with its out-of-state business violates the Constitution’s Commerce Clause.

Sharpsmart says its reusable container system, launched in 1999, was the first environmentally friendly method of transporting and disposing of used needles, syringes and other medical waste, according to the company website.

California requires biohazardous medical waste be incinerated at a permitted waste treatment facility, or disposed of through another method approved by the Department of Public Health.

For years California did not have a facility capable of treating Sharpsmart’s medical wastes, so the company took them to facilities in other states that did not require incineration, according to the complaint.

Though those facilities disposed of the wastes according to the laws of their states, Sharpsmart says, California sent the company a letter threatening to penalize it if it continued disposing of wastes that originated in California by any method not authorized under California law.

When Sharpsmart objected, the state sent another letter claiming California law governs the treatment of medical wastes in Kentucky, Maryland, North Dakota, Alabama, and Indiana. It also fined Sharpsmart $567,000.

To avoid more fines or legal action from California, Sharpsmart says it is taking its medical wastes to incinerators in other states despite the added costs.

Department of Public Health Affairs spokesman Ron Owens said in an email the department does not comment on pending litigation.

Sharpsmart wants California barred from enforcing its Medical Waste Management Act on out-of-state transactions, and damages for the increased costs of hauling medical waste outside of California.

It is represented by Morgan Hector with Steptoe & Johnson in Los Angeles, who did not immediately return emailed requests for comment Tuesday.

 

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