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Tough rule hits hospitals where it hurts

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DeKalb Medical Center officials aren't too happy these days. To comply with a tough new federal clean air law, they had to spend more than $800,000 on pollution controls for the medical center's incinerator, which burns up medical wastes.

But the new measures didn't reduce air pollution coming from the incinerator enough, forcing the medical center to shut down the incinerator and prompting the state Environmental Protection Division to fine the medical center $14,000.

Before the law went into effect March 15, 2000, there were more than 80 medical incinerators in Georgia but "this rule was so complicated ... all but two incinerators were shut down," says EPD's Tony Cutrer, manager of the Air Protection Branch's Stationary Source Compliance Program.

With the closing of DeKalb Medical Center's incinerator, there is just one still running (it's in Macon), and medical facilities are forced to hire subcontractors to properly dispose of the waste, which is much more expensive. DeKalb Medical Center, for example, has to spend an additional $350,000 to have a company haul away its waste.

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