Crime-scene waste ending up in public trash bins, drains

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by Sybil Hoffman

azfamily.com

Posted on May 22, 2012 at 9:37 AM

Updated Tuesday, May 22 at 9:41 AM

MESA, Ariz -- They're the ones hired to clean up crime scenes. But what happens to the biohazardous material once it's removed? One Valley company is under investigation following allegations crews are dumping blood, even hair, into public trash bins and drains.

According to a former employee of Disaster Restoration LLC, some crews have been disposing biohazardous material in public places.

"We're not talking one or two bags here. We're talking 20, 30 bags at a time," Charles Robinson said.

Robinson claims co-workers dumped more than just bags behind a mostly vacant strip mall in Mesa.

"Mattresses and couches and that type of thing would be set on the outside if they couldn't get it into the inside," he claimed.

In January, Richard McKain says he saw similar items wrapped in red biohazard tape.

"I was working on a roof over here and this whole area was piled up," he said. "There was piles of mattresses and box springs here and then the love seat and the couch were here."

It happened again in March.

"The first time was bad," McKain said. "The second time I was like, are you kidding me? You've got enough guts to come back and do it again?"

Employees from Dr. Pease's dental office documented finding mattresses, black bags with red tape and a couch in their Dumpster back in November 2011. They claim it wasn't the first time their Dumpsters were filled with items not pertaining to the offices in the complex.

Robinson claims he saw crews even pouring biohazardous material into a public sewer.

"Well for instance, this one job we did, they laid the hose down by the curb, took it to the drain, had another vehicle pull up to hide what they were doing, dumped all the blood and hair and everything else that was cleaned up down the public drain," he said.

Is there a real threat to public health here?

"The risk is very small but we always tell people to treat any type of bodily fluids with some type of respect I mean because they could contain something," Cara Christ with the Arizona Department of Health Services said.

The Division of Occupational Safety and Health agrees. While OSHA doesn't regulate biohazardous dumping, it is investigating claims Robinson wasn't offered a vaccine required by law if there is potential exposure to infectious materials.

"We in OSHA, we see all the infectious materials," Industrial Hygiene Supervisor Jesus Maeda told us. "We treat it as a universal precaution so you are required to treat all blood like it was infected."

Disaster Restoration LLC declined to comment but said Robinson is a disgruntled former employee.

"Believe me when I say that it is much harder to "turn the other cheek", but it is our standard practice not to engage in mud-slinging," the company wrote in an e-mail.

Robinson stands behind his claims.

"I'm glad it wasn't one of my family members," he said.

The Department of Environmental Quality says Disaster Restoration LLC is not registered to be disposing or transporting biohazardous material. ADEQ has also launched an investigation.

For the directory to the ADEQ's approved biohazardous medical waste handlers check out, http://www.azdeq.gov/environ/waste/solid/download/bhmwh.pdf.

The rules governing the disposal of biohazardous medical waste rules can be found at  http://www.azsos.gov/public_services/Title_18/18-13.htm.

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