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U.S. Department of Transportation Approves Special Permit for the Safe Transport of Ebola Infected Medical Waste for Disposal

Friday, October 3, 2014

WASHINGTON—This afternoon, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that it has issued an emergency special permit allowing a Lake Forest, Ill.-based company to transport large quantities of Ebola-contaminated waste from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas for disposal.

The special permit will cover all of Texas, not just waste originating at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, which is beneficial should another diagnosed case present itself in the state.  The special permit also extends to the removal of household hazardous material, including the patient’s home.  Special permits are issued to individual companies to ensure that each holder is fit to conduct the activity authorized. PHMSA has been in proactive discussions with CDC to prepare guidance to address emerging issues elsewhere in the United States should they develop.

The special permit issued today offers Stericycle, Inc. two alternative options for packaging the waste material prior to transport. Both options require a series of inner and outer packaging and the application of a CDC-authorized disinfectant to the inner packaging. The special permit also provides instructions for operation controls during transport, and requires the carrier to maintain a written spill response plan with guidelines for protecting employees and decontaminating any released material in the event of an accident.  For more information about the special permit, please click here.

The Hazardous Materials Regulations authorizes the issuance of special permits that allow a company or individual to package or ship hazardous materials in a manner that varies from existing regulations but maintains an equivalent level of safety. Solid materials contaminated with the Ebola virus are classified as Category A infectious substances according to the Hazardous Materials Regulations. Current safety regulations governing the transport of Category A infectious substances require packaging that may not be always suited for the transport of larger quantities of contaminated waste.  The treatment of Ebola patients creates a relatively large quantity of contaminated medical waste.

While the U.S. Department of Transportation’s PHMSA approves the special permit to Stericycle, the contract for services is between the company and Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.  All questions related to the terms of the contract and operational logistics such as the costs, the times of pick up, disposal locations, the volume of materials, etc. should be answered by the state of Texas health officials or the hospital.


DOT 94-14