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PeaceHealth St. Joseph fined for dangerous-waste violations

Ecology cited hospital for training, reporting lapses

PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center was fined $21
PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center was fined $21 (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)
By Ralph Schwartz Local Government Reporter

PeaceHealth’s Bellingham hospital was fined $21,000 for repeated violations of safety laws related to its dangerous waste.

During a 2022 inspection, the state Department of Ecology found PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center was out of compliance in three areas, according to a Tuesday, Oct. 31 news release. The findings included “failure to properly train staff in dangerous-waste management and emergency procedures, failure to inspect and document waste storage areas on a weekly basis, and failure to submit required annual reports to Ecology.”  

PeaceHealth was fined $16,000 in 2018 for similar violations, in addition to shipping its dangerous waste to a facility not licensed to handle it. The hospital’s fine that year was reduced from $24,000, “based on the hospital’s past history of compliance and willingness to address the violations,” a 2018 news release said.

Ecology took a harsher tone with PeaceHealth in its latest announcement.

“St. Joseph has had longstanding issues related to complying with dangerous waste regulations,” the Oct. 31 release said. “Despite repeated regulatory assistance and a previous penalty for similar violations in 2018, St. Joseph has not established a long-term system for safely managing their dangerous waste.”

In a statement to Cascadia Daily News, PeaceHealth spokesperson Bev Mayhew said St. Joe’s “handles (and has handled) dangerous waste according to all state regulations.”

“What we regrettably failed to do over the course of several years is to document the storage of the waste appropriately,” Mayhew’s statement continued. “Once determined to be out of compliance in early 2022, all documentation has been in order. We want to emphasize that at no time was dangerous medical waste a safety issue for the community or employees at the medical center.”

Waste pharmaceuticals can harm the environment and have been detected in water, sediments and fish, according to Ecology.

This story was corrected at 12:54 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 1 to indicate that PeaceHealth was found in violation of dangerous-waste laws, not regulations related to medical waste. Cascadia Daily News regrets the error.

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