Alberta company ordered to clean up sea cans full of year-old biomedical waste

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Edmonton-based biomedical and hazardous waste disposal company GFM Environmental Services is facing an enforcement order to dispose of more than a dozen unlabelled sea cans of biomedical waste that have been stored in several locations for more than a year. 

The order comes under Alberta’s Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act and states that the company may no longer move its biomedical waste, and must instead retain a qualified, independent third-party hazardous waste disposal company to manage the sea cans, some of which contain private health records.

GFM also operates a precious metals component of its storage and disposal business. The branch had been issued a Personal Identification Number (PIN) by Alberta Environment and Parks to authorize the waste handling; however, it expired in 2006 and was never renewed. The order states that the company’s environmental services branch had never been given PIN authorization. 

“Storage of the hazardous wastes and hazardous recyclables in the sea containers did not meet the storage requirements in sections 11 and 18 of the Regulation, in that there was no secondary containment, no signage, no suitable emergency response equipment for hazardous materials; and no qualified staff on site with knowledge of hazardous wastes or recyclables,” the enforcement order states.

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The provincial order states that the biomedical waste in the sea cans comes from both inside and outside of Alberta, according to invoices.

Enforcement officers said GFM company owner James Humen planned to take the biomedical waste stored in the sea cans to the Swan Hills Treatment Centre, which is the largest commercial hazardous waste incineration facility in Western Canada. However, the incinerator has been closed for months due to maintenance and is scheduled to close permanently in 2025. The facility has been in a phase-out process since 2020, when the facility laid off half of its employees.

In March, after three 90-day extensions, an inspection found that GFM still had 14 sea cans filled with waste. GFM now has until Dec. 1 to dispose of the remaining sea cans. 

 

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