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Company says neighbors shouldn't worry about site

But residents near a proposed biomedical waste treatment center aren't convinced.

By LORRI HELFAND, Times Staff Writer
Published January 10, 2008


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LARGO - Some neighbors are worried about a proposed biomedical waste treatment facility near the Tall Pines subdivision.

They're concerned Advanced Medical Disposal's facility would expose them to airborne chemicals or diseases.

"I don't see why they can't put it somewhere where there's no housing developments. Out in the middle of nowhere would be a very good spot," said Marla Weber, who lives on Whispering Drive S, a couple of blocks north of the proposed site.

But project representatives say residents are worked up because they haven't been provided much information yet.

"We want people to understand what we're doing," said Advanced Medical Disposal president Trey Heyward, who runs a statewide crime scene cleaning company called Accident/Trauma Scene Cleaners. Once neighbors understand it, they'll support it, he said.

Some neighbors assumed the facility would have an incinerator. But the indoor biomedical treatment facility at 2060 34th Way N actually plans to use an autoclave, like those used by hospitals and dentists to sterilize medical instruments.

High-pressure steam, about 285 degrees Fahrenheit, would be used to sterilize medical waste, such as gauze, gowns and tongue depressors. No body parts would be treated there, Heyward said.

A vacuum system would remove residual steam and moisture. And the sterilized material would be disposed of at an Okeechobee landfill.

"There are no harmful emissions released into the atmosphere whatsoever," said Angel Aguiar, vice president of Bontech Corp., which manufactures the autoclaves that would be used at the facility. "It's a very clean operation."

The equipment also would be rigorously tested by the Pinellas County Health Department before it is used and regularly monitored afterward, said land use consultant Todd Pressman.

Still, Weber said she's not sure her neighbors would be protected from drug-resistant bacteria or AIDS.

Weber's neighbor, Lee Norins, said she's opposed to the facility no matter what.

"Pinellas County has got vacant places," Norins said. "I don't know why they would want to go into a residential area."

The neighborhood, however, is not uniformly residential.

Hundreds of homes surround an industrial area with rows of huge warehouses and manufacturing plants.

The facility property, which is about 130 feet from the property line of the closest home, is in the heart of an industrial district, near an electrical motor manufacturer, an auto repair business and a pool manufacturer.

The current property owner, Barr Brothers Properties LLC, is seeking a conditional use permit for the facility and a variance so the facility could operate within a half-mile of a residential zone.

Meanwhile, Advanced Medical Disposal representatives maintain their project would benefit the community by providing a service now unavailable in Pinellas County. A large medical waste company bought another treatment facility and moved out of town several months ago, Heyward said.

And, in the event of a disaster, the facility could provide a local means of decontamination, he said.

Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@sptimes.com or 445-4155.

TO LEARN MORE:

If you go

The Pinellas County zoning examiner will hold a hearing on the request for a biomedical waste treatment facility at 9 a.m. todayin the County Commission assembly room on the fifth floor of the County Courthouse, 315 Court St., Clearwater. County commissioners will hold a public hearing on the matter March 18.

[Last modified January 9, 2008, 21:28:19]


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