In August of 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency put a series of rules into effect that addresses the proper and improper disposal of drugs, such as bulk chemotherapy drugs, P-listed waste (nicotine, Coumadin/warfarin, arsenic trioxide, etc.), U-listed waste (mercury, chloroform, etc.) and characteristic hazardous waste (aerosol propellants, M-Cresol, etc.), and it is important to know how these rules may impact your healthcare organization. If you are found breaking these rules, you will be fined, and after a series of violations, you may find that there are additional fines or restrictions levied against your organization that can have serious impacts on your business.
Read more below about these new guidelines, as well as the penalties associated with violations. If you have been accused of violating these rules, contact the Law Office of Vikas Bajaj, APC as soon as possible to speak with a legal professional during an initial consultation. We will be happy to discuss the violations that you have been accused of, go through the possible penalties of these violations, and talk about how we can best work together in order to minimize these charges and penalties for your organization.
New EPA Rules for Drug Disposal
In April of 2019, the EPA introduced a new series of rules and guidelines under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act for how healthcare organizations are to dispose of drugs and other dangerous chemical substances. These federal rules are intended to reduce the environmental impacts that disposed chemicals and pharmaceuticals have on their surrounding areas, and if your organization produces more than 1 kilogram of waste materials, then you will need to pay extra attention to following these guidelines.
Primarily, the federal rules restrict organizations from flushing these hazardous chemicals like chemotherapy drugs or opiates into sewer systems, in order to minimize (or halt altogether) the well-known and documented impacts that they can have on the ecosystems that they leech into.
These rules typically apply to hospitals, pharmaceutical retail outlets or drug stores, long-term care facilities, reverse distributors, and some dental providers in California. To stay compliant, you must have your hazardous wastes handled by a hazardous waste collection company either within 90 days of the container being filled or once yearly regardless of whether or not you fill it.
Penalties for Violating EPA Drug Disposal Rules
There are a variety of penalties that your organization can be hit with if you are found to violate these EPA drug disposal rules, such as by flushing pharmaceuticals or not having your waste collected and removed at the appropriate times. Since the rules have been updated and expanded, the associated fines have more than doubled in some cases. Violations of the RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) were previously punishable with fines of up to $37,500 per day, per violation, but since the regulations have been increased, the fines now go to a maximum of $70,000 per day, per violation. This is a considerable increase and can cause serious problems for any healthcare organization.
Other violation fines have also increased. For example, if you are found to be improperly disposing of pharmaceuticals, and this violation falls under the Safe Drinking Water Act, you will be fined nearly $60,000 per violation, each day you are in violation, whereas the penalties were previously just over $35,000 each day for each violation.
Contact Us Now If You Have Been Fined For Drug Disposal Violations
If your healthcare facility has been accused of violating these new EPA rules, the best thing that you can do is to partner with an attorney before responding to any notices. We will need to be certain that we have a full understanding of the accusation that you are facing, the conditions in your facilities that led to these accusations and possible fines, and how we can work with the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce these fines and charges. Whether or not you were actually in violation of the rules, you deserve to have your situation considered individually, especially considering how new these rules are and how complicated it can be for a major organization to update their policies based on new rule changes.
We understand that you are working to operate your facilities in full compliance with California and federal regulations, and we want to be sure that you get a fair chance at updating your policies without being hit with massive fines after such a recent update to the guidelines. We will work with you and your team to identify the best possible avenues to address these accusations, and how you can best move forward from them.