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County boosts restrictions for Matthews medical waste incinerator

A medical waste incinerator in Matthews could be subject to significant new restrictions under a proposal Mecklenburg County air officials have submitted to the EPA. By 2014, all medical waste incinerators in the country will have to meet higher pollution standards set forth by the EPA. But Mecklenburg County officials would like the region's only medical waste incinerator to clean up its act sooner. A company called BMWNC owns the incinerator and is seeking a new operating permit from the county. Mecklenburg County air quality officials have added strict new requirements to a proposed operating permit for the BMWNC medical waste incinerator in Matthews. County air quality director Don Willard says it's unusual to make so many changes to a draft permit. For example, BMWNC would have to test its toxic emissions more frequently, work with hospitals to reduce the amount of unnecessary paper and plastic being sent to the incinerator, and install a better computer system to assure constant compliance. "What we're trying to get from the company is continuous compliance - and compliance when nobody's looking," says Willard. Willard says a recent air quality violation at the incinerator and a large number of public comments prompted him to make the proposed permit more stringent. Now the EPA must approve the changes. BMWNC could opt to challenge some of the standards as unreasonable, but a company spokesman says it would be premature to comment until the EPA makes its decision.