Owner Says Farragut Rd. Warehouse Will Not Be Medical Storage Facility
By Dara Mormile
Citiwaste Medical Waste Disposal, the company that will operate the facility, hosted the meeting, held at the Hebrew Educational Society. Gershon Klein, president of First MedCare on Flatlands Avenue, owns the 1500-square foot building where the waste transfer station would be located.
"About five years ago I bought the property and cleaned it up. I presently run an ambulance service at that location which takes residents to hospitals and doctors' offices," he said. "I am not looking to build a new facility. I simply want to expand on what already exists."
Klein made it clear that the warehouse would not be a storage facility, but would only be used for keeping transfer records by staff. When medical waste, including needles and gauze from hospitals and doctors' offices throughout the city, arrives at the site, it will immediately be put on trailer trucks outside the building, then transported for disposal outside the city, including locations in Albany and Baltimore.
"All medical waste coming to our facility has already been placed in sealed plastic containers, then put in plastic bags and sealed in crash-proof cardboard boxes," he said. "The waste is regulated and recorded and all guidelines set by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) are followed. We have to do everything legally and we would be monitored by the DEC on a regular basis." Klein also said the company will have requisite insurance in the event of any mishap.
Even though Klein insisted the cardboard boxes are never opened at his proposed facility, some residents were concerned about contamination.
Neal Duncan, a construction worker and president of the United Canarsie South Civic Association, said, "I handle cardboard boxes all day - they're not that thick. You mean to tell us that you have needles and contaminated items in cartons and they're going to withstand an accident?"
When the boxes arrive for transfer, they are never opened, according to Klein, and are only handled by employees and drivers trained to transfer medical waste. The business would also be OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) compliant in order to assure a healthful and safe workplace. Klein said it is presently inconvenient and not economical for small vans to pick up waste from medical facilities and make multiple trips to disposal sites hundreds of miles away.
Klein noted, "The maximum time the waste can remain in the trucks after being transferred is seven to 14 days. But our plan is to have trucks transporting waste on a daily basis."
State Senator John Sampson, City Councilman Lew Fidler and representatives for Charles Barron said they hadn't heard about the plan for the site until it was brought to their attention by Mary Anne Sallustro, president of the South Canarsie Civic Association. Barron, whose district includes the warehouse location, was unable to attend the meeting but his representative, Joy Simmons, assured those at the meeting he would not allow the site to operate as a waste transfer facility.
"It is environmental injustice," she said.
Sampson said he plans on meeting with other politicians to ensure that the DEC does not issue a permit to Klein.
"I want to deal with the community's environmental concerns," he said. "We were not involved in the implementation process. We'll listen to what you have to say but that doesn't mean we're going to be objective about it. This proposal hasn't gone through any of the city agencies and it seems like Canarsie is becoming a dumping ground."
Mercedes Narcisse, a registered nurse and president of the Avenue L Merchants Association, addressed Klein, asking, "What will happen over time? You say it's safe, but you also say you don't know exactly what's in those boxes. What about long term exposure?"
Klein reiterated safety measures and government guidelines would be followed. He said it would have radiation detectors and explained that transported boxes would never touch the ground, but rather, be transferred directly from one truck to another.
When asked why the Canarsie location was chosen over others in the borough, Klein only said, "To my knowledge, there are no other waste transport sites in Brooklyn," he said.
There were no state environmental officials at the meeting, but Klein said he would return for another meeting after DEC meets with elected officials.