ATHENS, GA. — A "gray area" in Georgia's medical waste regulations could cost the University of Georgia (UGA) College of Veterinary Medicine
big money in fines, though the veterinary college says the problem is a simple difference of interpretation.
The problem started in July with one of the three incinerators the veterinary college uses to burn pathological waste. UGA
interpreted its permit to allow the incineration of animal tissues, carcasses, bedding and similar items. Biomedical hospital
waste is disposed of through a contractor.
Last July, UGA called the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) to find out if it was acceptable to incinerate manure
at the college's biomedical research facility. The incinerator is a backup for a tissue digester at the research center, explains
UGA Dean Sheila Allen. The college had long burned carcasses in the incinerator, believing the permit had allowed such a practice.
But when EPD came for an inspection related to the request, college officials were told carcasses should have been classified
as biomedical waste instead of pathological waste.
"We've been in compliance all along," Allen says. "It's just a question of clarification. At no point was there any concern
of release of dangerous infectious agents to the environment. It's only a question of whether we had the right permit for
what we were doing."