Bergen County freeholders hear Hackensack opposition to medical waste disposal plan
HACKENSACK — A group of more than 30 residents and Hackensack City Council members came to the Bergen County Freeholders meeting Wednesday to speak out against an application by a Prospect Avenue senior care center’s owner to neutralize medical waste at the site.
In an unusual action, Freeholder Chairwoman Joan Voss allowed the group to have a spokesman address the board at the 4:30 p.m. meeting. Public comments are typically reserved for the later 7:30 p.m. meeting, she told the audience.
Bob Feinberg spoke for the Prospect Preservation Group. Echoing much of what he told the county Solid Waste Advisory Council in November, he said the in-house cold sterilization method proposed by Richard Pineles, head of the Prospect Heights Care Center at 336 Prospect Ave, is ineffective at neutralizing medical waste.
“You don’t process toxic waste in the midst of where people live,” Feinberg said. “It will create a health issue, a safety issue and a horrendous real estate issue.”
The cold sterilization method would use a chemical solution that is both cheaper and requires less equipment than traditional heat-based methods to sanitize medical waste such as syringes and bandages commonly contaminated with bodily fluids including blood.
Feinberg told freeholders that the medical waste should be destroyed at an incinerator, where other such materials are destroyed, to ensure safety and avoid any potential for contamination.
The crowds applauded Feinberg, a Prospect Avenue resident, after his remarks.
City Deputy Mayor Kathleen Canestrino and Councilmen David Sims and Leo Battaglia were present to support the residents in opposing the permit.
Battaglia said that any medical waste disposal should be done in an isolated area, not a residential area.
The item was not on the agenda, Voss reminded the crowd, but she allowed it to be discussed out of courtesy to the large crowd that arrived to be heard on the issue.
Pineles could not be reached for comment. It was not apparent whether he attended the Wednesday meeting.
Prospect Preservation Group members returned for the late meeting and the public comment period Wednesday night.
The county Utilities Authority approved his waste disposal permit application after an October 2013 public hearing. The request then went to the Solid Waste Advisory Council in November. Its next stop is with the freeholders. Voss told Feinberg and the audience that she would closely review all materials submitted related to the permit application but until that happened the board could not take any action.
Pineles is still in a lengthy zoning battle involving his application to the Hackensack Zoning Board to allow him to build the 19-story Bergen-Passaic Long Term acute Care Hospital on 1.15 acres on Summit Avenue that would extend to Prospect Avenue. The board denied the application on quality-of-life grounds in January 2012. Pineles filed a lawsuit and a state Superior Court judge upheld the board’s decision in August 2013. That decision was appealed.
Hackensack city officials at the time also sided with residents, many of the same who oppose the current medical waste disposal permit, in the LTAC application.