Louisiana Judge Temporarily Blocks Ebola Victim’s Ash Disposal

By KEVIN McGILL | October 15, 2014

A state judge signed an order Monday temporarily blocking ash from the incineration of a Texas Ebola victim’s belongings to be disposed of at a southwest Louisiana site.

Attorney General Buddy Caldwell had sought the order to stop the soot from linen, bedding and carpet taken from the Dallas apartment where Thomas Eric Duncan first got sick from being brought east. The items were destroyed Friday at the Veolia Environmental Services incinerator in Port Arthur, Texas.

The ash was to be sent to a Calcasieu Parish facility run by Chemical Waste Management Inc. of Lake Charles.

Chemical Waste Management said Monday that it would not accept the ash until state officials agree that doing so would pose no public health threat. But the Attorney General’s Office went ahead with the restraining order request “out of an abundance of caution.”

State District Judge Bob Downing’s order forbids Veolia from transporting the ash to Louisiana. It also says the company must apply for “any applicable permits” from the state for the material and provide a list of Texas hazardous waste landfills where the material could be sent. It also forbids Chemical Waste Management from accepting the material. And it sets an Oct. 22 hearing on whether the temporary injunction should be made permanent.

Veolia officials did not return calls for comment Monday. CWM said earlier Monday that it was informed by Veolia that the materials had been decontaminated before Veolia accepted them and burned them at 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit.

“We are in contact and working with all the appropriate Louisiana state officials and certainly want these officials to agree that any acceptance of this ash at our Lake Charles facility is safe prior to its acceptance,” Chemical Waste Management Inc. said in news release.

The company said it is permitted by the state and federal government to accept such material and that the decontaminated and incinerated material poses no threat to the environment or human health.

But, the company said, “We do not want to make an already complicated situation, more complicated.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Thomas Frieden was asked about Caldwell’s concerns during a news conference Monday and said the virus is not considered to be hardy in the environment.

“We certainly know how to inactivate and destroy the Ebola virus. It’s readily destroyed by incineration, by chemical means,” he said.

(Associated Press reporter Jamie Stengle in Dallas contributed to this story.)

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