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Health risk was high from bloody gloves, IV lines and chemo waste found crammed in 11 trailers

Basile Pertsas, 55, faces criminal charges in a state investigation that turned up 11 containers of biomedical waste at a storage center. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
Published Aug. 9

TAMPA — State investigators last week announced they had seized more than 50,000 pounds of untreated biomedical waste at a Plant City storage center.

An arrest report obtained this week reveals what made up the haul and just how dangerous it is.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection found bloody latex gloves, stained hospital sheets, intravenous lines, expired medicine and chemotherapy waste, among other things, all carrying an "extremely high risk" of exposure to bloodborne pathogens.

The material was crammed into eight 53-foot trailer containers and three cargo-shipping containers at Specialty Trailer Service, 2610 U.S. Highway 92 E.

"It should be noted that one of the trailers began leaking fluids from the floor area and this property is (within) 500' of a mobile home park which had children present," according to the department's arrest report, obtained by the Tampa Bay Times.

RELATED STORY: Investigators find 50,000 pounds of untreated biomedical waste in Plant City

Basile Pertsas, 55, of Tampa, was arrested in connection with the find on 11 counts each of littering for commercial purposes and economic gain, nuisance injurious to health, and storage of biomedical waste at a non-permitted location. Pertsas also faces a violation of probation charge in connection with an earlier drug-related arrest.

Strict state and federal guidelines dictate how biomedical waste can be disposed of, said Jay Wolfson, a professor at the University of South Florida's College of Public Health and an expert on health care law.

Wolfson said hospitals and other health care professionals may contract licensed transport services to deliver biomedical waste to installations that incinerate it or treat it with steam.

"The containers in which the material is stored must be specially designed to ensure 'containment' of the various forms of waste, from blood, body fluids and tissue products to sharps and discarded medications," Wolfson said in an email.

State business records show Pertsas was listed last year as CEO of a biomedical waste company, Waste Alliance Inc. His attorney, Joseph Hobson, said Pertsas will plead not guilty to the charges.

"Why they decided to charge my client I know not," Hobson said.

The report describes what led up to Pertsas' arrest.

Pertsas kept containers at Specialty Trailer Service under a lease agreement with the storage center.

On July 29, officials with the state Office of Emergency Response and Department of Health searched the containers after receiving a complaint. It was unclear who filed the complaint. They discovered the biomedical waste and wrote that anyone entering the containers would need to wear a hazmat-style suit.

Pertsas abandoned the containers, according to the state, and failed to comply with a written order from the Health Department and Specialty Trailer Service to remove the material, the report said. Investigators said the storage center was not permitted to receive or store either processed or unprocessed biomedical waste.

Pertsas had been paid by hospitals, medical centers and physicians offices to properly dispose of their waste at an approved facility, the report said. He didn't do that, the state alleged. The report did not identify the institutions that hired him.

Hospitals contacted by the Times on Friday said he was not working for them.

It could take three weeks to clean up the containers, according to the report. The state will hire a contractor for the job.

Times staff writer Tony Marrero contributed to this report. Contact Sam Ogozalek at sogozalek@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3430. Follow @SamOgozalek.

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