On October 13, 2014, Louisiana District Judge Bob Downing granted the Louisiana attorney general’s request for injunctive
relief against “potentially Ebola-contaminated material” collected from the Dallas, Texas, Ebola victim’s apartment.
The waste, contained within 142 55-gallon plastic drums, was first transported from the Dallas apartment to a Port Arthur
incinerator under a Department of Transportation (“DOT”) emergency special permit. From there, the ash residue was
scheduled to be transported to Calcasieu, Louisiana, for disposal. However, the landfill announced that it would not
accept the waste in a non-binding statement. The Louisiana attorney general followed up this announcement with a request
for a Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”) to stop that waste from crossing the border into Louisiana.
The CDC, through its August 2014 guidance “Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Hospitalized Patients
with Known or Suspected Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever in U.S. Hospitals,” recommends that all Ebola-contaminated or potentially
contaminated materials be placed in leak- proof, rigid waste containment and sent for incineration or autoclaving in
accordance with DOT Hazardous Materials Regulations and DOT guidance. Of concern to the Louisiana attorney general, there
is no CDC post-incineration testing. In fact, the CDC in a letter to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals
stated that “Ebola-associated waste that has been appropriately inactivated or incinerated is no longer infectious,”
without any references in support of the statement. EPA has also declined to regulate, indicating that medical waste
disposal is primarily regulated by the states. DOT indicated that the CDC and DOT plan to issue joint guidance regarding
disposal sometime next week. After reviewing these facts, the Louisiana District Judge granted the TRO, effectively
stopping the ash residue in its tracks in Texas.
The Texas hazardous waste incinerator and transporter are likely now actively seeking out alternative Type I or II
landfills to accept the waste. In the meantime, the CDC may also step up to verify and confirm the safety of the medical
waste post-incineration to ease the fears of other states, before they too shut their doors.