Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente health system has been ordered to pay the state $49 million to settle allegations of illegally dumping hazardous waste, medical supplies and patient information, according to a Sept. 9 report from CBS' Sacramento-based affiliate CBS13.
Illegal activity was discovered during undercover inspections of dumpsters at 16 different Kaiser facilities
"The illegal disposal of hazardous and medical waste puts the environment, workers, and the public at risk. It also violates numerous federal and state laws," Rob Bonta, California's attorney general, told CBS.
Investigators found hundreds of medical and hazardous wastes such as aerosols, cleansers, sanitizers, batteries, electronic waste, syringes, medical tubing with body fluids, pharmaceuticals and over 10,000 paper records containing over 7,700 patients' information across the dumpsters.
"About six years ago, we became aware of occasions when, contrary to our rigorous policies and procedures, some facilities' landfill-bound dumpsters included items that should have been disposed of differently. Upon learning of this issue, we immediately completed an extensive auditing effort of the waste stream at our facilities and established mandatory and ongoing training to address the findings. … We take this matter extremely seriously and have taken full responsibility to acknowledge and, in cooperation with the California Attorney General and county district attorneys, correct our performance regarding landfill-bound trash where it may have fallen short of our standards," Kaiser said in a statement.
Additionally, the system announced a three-step approach to correct the illegal dumping, which includes assessing the types of waste generated across its facilities, work-site rounds to observe disposal techniques and provide extra training, and training every employee and physician on state-required proper waste disposal processes.