A Rim Country veterinarian says changes in environmental laws caught his long-standing practice off guard, costing the clinic $65,000 in fines.
On Tuesday, the Star Valley Veterinary Clinic settled with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and Arizona Attorney General’s Office two years after the ADEQ found biohazardous medical waste violations at the Star Valley practice.
The clinic agreed to pay a $5,000 penalty and provide $60,000 in veterinarian services to the Humane Society of Central Arizona.
In June 2009, an inspection by ADEQ’s Solid Waste Inspection and Compliance Unit found that the clinic had been disposing of untreated syringes contaminated with blood in regular waste containers for the past 10 years.
The contents of these containers were then dumped in the Gila County landfill.
“These are serious violations that went on for many years,” said ADEQ Director Henry Darwin.
Clinic owner and veterinarian Alan Hallman said in the 26 years he has been in business, there have been huge changes in environmental laws.
“We were in compliance for years, and assumed that our biohazard disposal methods were still compliant when we had an ADEQ inspection in June 2009,” he said. “We were wrong, as laws had changed. We have since corrected our disposal methods.”
Hallman and Darwin praised the settlement agreement, which Hallman proposed to benefit the local humane society.
“This is a very creative settlement that will allow many abandoned pets and other animals in the Payson area to receive medical treatment while at the same time educating animal owners about the proper disposal of this medical waste,” Darwin said.
“This is somewhat of a unique settlement, and I am encouraged that this settlement was reached in this manner,” Hallman added.
The consent judgment is subject to court approval.
Attorney General Tom Horne reminded all veterinary clinics and medical providers of the need to comply with standards “to protect the health of citizens and the environment.”
In the past few years, the clinic has experienced drastic highs and lows. In 2010, the Veterinary Healthcare Team of Arizona named it the top health care team in the state. Then in July, a former employee pleaded guilty to stealing some $116,000 over the course of 108 months. The thefts nearly bankrupted Hallman and forced him to cut staff benefits.