Monarch Waste Technologies pyrolysis system for disposal of medical waste. Courtesy photo
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will hold a public hearing from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4 on a proposed Title V operating permit for Monarch Waste Technologies, a hospital medical infectious waste disposal facility located on Pueblo of Nambe land.
The meeting will take place at the Pojoaque Middle School in the Frank B. Lopez auditorium, 1797 State Road 502 West (NM-502).
The purpose of the public hearing is to accept oral and written comments into the administrative record. Immediately prior to the public hearing, EPA will also hold an informal discussion session to respond to questions on the proposed initial permit and to answer general questions about the permitting process. This informal discussion session will take place at the same location but will run an hour earlier from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.
A previous informational meeting on the Monarch permit was held in late October but drew little interest. The permit application was deemed complete Sept. 11 by the EPA.
The incinerator uses pyrolysis for processing the medical waste. Pyrolysis uses an external indirect heat in an oxygen-free environment. Using moderately low temperatures, the waste slowly roasts as it absorbs the heat and decomposes in a sealed, airless chamber.
Monarch officials said at the October meeting that the process allows the volatile organic compounds to boil off in the form of gas which can later be oxidized in a more controlled manner. Because the waste material is not directly subjected to elevated temperatures and combustion gases in excess of 900 Celsius or 1,653 Fahrenheit, harmful emissions such as Dioxins and Furans, are unable to form. This unique difference is what allowed the EPA to give a special exemption for pyrolysis for incineration of hazardous/infectious medical waste.
The Nambe facility accepts sharps and biohazard wastes, trace chemotherapy wastes, RCRA empty containers, pharmaceutical wastes and controlled substances from DEA takeback programs and drugs or other illegal contraband seized by law enforcement. Monarch co-founder Kevin Yearout has said the facility does not process pathological waste or human or animal remains or body parts.
Monarch has leased the property from the Nambe Pueblo Development Corporation since. Building improvements were completed by August 2017 and the pyrolysis system was installed between August and October 2017. EPA gave Monarch permission at the end of October 2017 to begin operations, however Monarch immediately discovered a need to redesign portions of the system and informed the EPA that they were ceasing operations for redesign.
Since then, the system has operated sporadically and all during the permit application process, Monarch was also going through another process for an exemption from air permitting as provided for systems using pyrolysis technology under federal regulations. Testing at Sandia National Laboratory indicated that the Monarch system met the design requirements for pyrolysis and produced emissions consistent with pyrolysis. In June the company received a letter from the EPA confirming that the system produces primarily pyrolysis products and not products of combustion therefore it does not have to be permitted as an incinerator.
Monarch officials say that in theory, following the permitting process was unnecessary but that because they had agreed with the Nambe Pueblo Development Corporation and the Nambe Pueblo to permit the facility they continued down that path even though they were clearly and definitely not operating an incinerator.