Hospital dumping solid clinical waste into sewer

Staff at Mary Washington Hospital in Virginia, US, have been dumping medical waste in the city sewer system, including two recent cases when used bandages, gloves and syringes clogged a city pump station.

“Beverly Cameron, city manager, described the dumping as a “serious public health concern.

“In a letter to hospital officials, he said the material threatens to cause “backups, flooding and associated health issues” in the office park next to the pump station.

“Hospital waste clogged the city pumping system several years ago, causing sewage overflows, according to a July 15 letter from Cameron to Rankin.


Clearly, this is a serious failure in process, and a failure also in the work of managers and supervisors, and of regulators. The ‘serious public health concern’ is a bit over the top – think what else goes down the sewer! – but the practical implications of blockage do indeed cause serious problems that in the event of overflow could indeed create a health risk.

But the most obvious question has to be, how on earth could you flush a pair of used rubber gloves?


  1. Investigation has now concluded that the solid clinical waste items blocking sewers enter via hospital utility room hoppers (sluices).

    This is clearly contravening disposal requirements and standards for the safe management of healthcare wastes. Moreover, it is damned stupid!

    It may take only a few small items to inititate a substantial blockage. This is, sadly, not too uncomon though disposal to a sluice, now increasing removed from ward utility rooms, must be something of a rareity. The practicality is that water flow is just not adequate to flush bouyant items. I expect that many items may actually enter the sewer via bed pan washer/macerators. These are closed systems, so there is a component of out-of-site out-of-mind. A pair of gloves or other item worn while handling a bed pan can too easily be tossed inside rather than placed into a more appropriate waste container. Once the door is closed, away they go later to cause a blockage when mixed with the fragmented disposable paper bed pan liner that subsequently gets a bad press.

    As always, care is required and user error might be at the root of blockage problems.



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