Administrative Code

Creating a Report: Check the sections you'd like to appear in the report, then use the "Create Report" button at the bottom of the page to generate your report. Once the report is generated you'll then have the option to download it as a pdf, print or email the report.

Virginia Administrative Code
Title 9. Environment
Agency 20. Virginia Waste Management Board
Chapter 121. Regulated Medical Waste Management Regulations
4/16/2024

9VAC20-121-240. Treatment standards.

A. Prior to disposal or recycling, all regulated medical waste, including its packaging, must be treated by a department approved regulated medical waste treatment process. Any method used for the treatment of regulated medical waste must be verifiable to render the waste noninfectious in a manner that is protective of human health and the environment. Untreated regulated medical waste shall not be recycled or disposed of in a solid waste landfill or other solid waste management facility.

B. The requirements in this subsection are applicable to all treatment methods. Additional requirements are provided in subsections C through I of this section and are dependent on the type of treatment used.

1. The treatment method and operating parameters shall be appropriate and effective for the type of waste being managed.

a. Human pathological and anatomical waste, including tissues, organs, body parts, and other related waste and animal carcasses shall be treated by incineration unless an alternative treatment process is approved by the department. Alkaline hydrolysis is an alternative treatment process that may be considered for treatment. Pathological waste in a liquid fixative may require special management, such as decanting the liquid for separate disposal, incineration, or management as hazardous waste if applicable.

b. Thermally resistant waste, including solidified liquids and bulk animal bedding, requires approval of treatment operating parameters on a case-by-case basis.

c. Category A waste shall be managed in accordance with the requirements of 9VAC20-121-160.

d. Waste contaminated with toxins and toxin waste solutions (depending on the toxin) can be inactivated by incineration or extensive autoclaving, or by soaking in suitable decontamination solutions. Toxin inactivation procedures shall not be assumed to be 100% effective without validation using specific toxin bioassays.

2. Treatment equipment shall include built-in automatic controls and fail safe mechanisms to ensure the waste cannot bypass the treatment process.

3. Size reduction, grinding, shredding, or puncturing of containers is permissible if integral to the treatment unit and shall be done with safe and sanitary methods. Nothing in this section shall prevent the use of devices that grind, shred, or compact to reduce volume at the point of generation and prior to enclosing the regulated medical waste in plastic bags and other required packaging; however, the waste remains regulated medical waste. The facility shall demonstrate that devices are constructed and operated in a manner that prevents employee exposure to the waste; contains any aerosol, bioaerosol, or mist caused by the process; and treats or filters any air evacuated from the chamber during processing. Appropriate means must be employed to appropriately protect workers and contain the waste when unloading regulated medical wastes from such a device.

4. If grinding, shredding, or size reduction or puncturing of packaging takes place prior to treatment, it shall occur in a closed unit immediately preceding the treatment unit. If grinding, shredding, or size reduction takes place following treatment, it must occur within 24 hours of leaving the treatment unit. Transfer from a grinder or shredder to or from a treatment unit shall be under forced draft ventilation that removes fumes from the operations area to a safe discharge.

5. All process units for the preparation or treatment of regulated medical waste shall be in closed vessels designed to operate under a negative pressure atmospheric control that filters all vents, discharges, and fugitive emissions of air from the process units through a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter with efficiency of 99.97% for 0.3 microns. Proper installation of filters shall be documented. Air and gases which have themselves been sterilized by the process are not required to pass through a filter.

6. All effluent must be discharged to an approved sanitary sewer system. Effluent from the facility shall not be permitted to drain or discharge into surface waters except when authorized under a VPDES permit issued pursuant to 9VAC25-31.

7. Only the types of regulated medical waste specified in the facility's permit shall be treated using the approved treatment unit. Treatment methods include:

a. Autoclaves (steam sterilization);

b. Microwaves;

c. Dry heat treatment;

d. Chemical treatment;

e. Alkaline hydrolysis;

f. Incineration; and

g. Alternate treatment technologies as reviewed and approved by the department in accordance with this chapter.

8. Prior to operation of any treatment unit, the facility must conduct validation testing in accordance with 9VAC20-121-260 and an approved treatment plan to establish the appropriate operating parameters for effective treatment of regulated medical waste. The results of the testing must be submitted to the department for review and approval in accordance with 9VAC20-121-320. The facility shall not receive or treat regulated medical waste until the department has approved the validation results, operating parameters, and protocols to be used for the treatment unit. Revalidation shall be conducted as required by 9VAC20-121-260.

9. Treatment units shall operate in accordance with the specified operating parameters and protocols set forth in subsections C through I of this section or alternate standards established through validation testing and approved by the department. Records of treatment shall be maintained in accordance with 9VAC20-121-340.

10. Periodic challenge testing shall be performed under full loading in accordance with 9VAC20-121-270 to evaluate the effectiveness of each treatment unit and treatment method.

11. Effective treatment of regulated medical waste must achieve a 6 Log10 or greater reduction of the viable spore concentrations of the most appropriate bacterial species for the treatment method. Effective treatment is demonstrated by no growth in all treated biological indicators and growth in all untreated biological indicators during validation and periodic challenge testing.

12. The selection of the most appropriate biological indicator to utilize during validation and challenge testing of a treatment process shall be supported by referenced standards, guidelines, or information from peer reviewed journals related to the process.

a. Biological indicators shall utilize spores from one of the following bacterial species:

(1) Geobacillus stearothermophilus (G.s.);

(2) Bacillus atrophaeus (B.a.);

(3) Bacillus subtilis (B.s.);

(4) Other Bacillus species or spore forming bacteria from domestic or international culture collections; or

(5) Organisms that demonstrate the necessary resistance for the treatment method, as approved by the department.

b. The facility shall use commercially prepared biological indicators, such as spore strips, spore suspensions, and self-contained biological indicators.

c. Biological indicators shall be placed in the most challenging location during validation and periodic challenge testing. Indicator ports, chambers, or other mechanisms shall be used for placement of the biological indicator when placement directly into the waste may be compromised by the treatment method, such as when shredding, grinding, or other mechanism is used. Ports and chambers shall be accessible by the operator.

d. When using the appropriate biological indicator, the number to be used shall be based upon the amount of waste to be processed in accordance with 9VAC20-121-260 D 7 (for validation) and 9VAC20-121-270 B (for periodic challenge testing).

13. Parametric controls shall be used to monitor critical operational treatment parameters and provide a record of measurements that can be correlated to effective treatment.

14. Door alignment, gaskets, locking mechanisms, and other components of any treatment unit that utilizes a pressure vessel (such as an autoclave) shall achieve a complete seal during operation to prevent leaking of steam, liquid, or waste and avoid decreases in pressure or temperature that could cause isolated cold spots inside the unit.

15. In the event of power failure, interrupted, or incomplete treatment cycle, the facility shall investigate the cause of the failure and make any necessary repairs to resolve the issue prior to the next treatment cycle. Any waste in the treatment unit shall either be removed and managed as regulated medical waste or subjected to another full treatment cycle once repairs are made.

16. After each cycle, treated waste shall be removed from reusable treatment carts and containers. All reusable treatment carts and containers shall be cleaned on a periodic basis to remove the buildup of more than de minimis amounts of treated waste residual on cart and container surfaces.

C. The requirements in this subsection are applicable to autoclave treatment methods.

1. All autoclaves shall be operated at 100% saturated steam conditions at appropriate combinations of operating temperatures, pressures, and residence times, that have been demonstrated through validation testing to achieve reliable and effective treatment of microorganisms in regulated medical waste at design capacity. Longer treatment cycles may be needed for loads with liquids. Autoclave operating temperatures shall be greater than or equal to 250oF (121oC) at no less than 15 pounds per square inch of gauge pressure, and the minimum operating temperature and pressure shall be maintained during the residence time of the treatment cycle.

2. All autoclaves shall be equipped with continuous time, temperature, and pressure monitoring and recording.

3. For vacuum autoclaves, pre-vacuum shall be conducted such that all system air is fully evacuated a minimum of two times prior to the residence phase of the treatment cycle , during which all air is evacuated to ensure adequate steam exposure throughout the waste. Additional pre-vacuum pulls may be required based on certain waste or packaging types, and as determined through validation testing.

4. For gravity autoclaves, pressure pulsing must be performed to evacuate all air in the unit.

5. Validation and periodic challenge testing shall be performed using biological indicators utilizing spores from the bacterial species Geobacillus stearothermophilus.

D. The requirements in this subsection are applicable to microwave treatment methods.

1. Microwaving treatment shall incorporate pretreatment by shredding and steam injection or induction.

2. All microwaves shall be operated between 203oF and 212oF (95oC and 100oC) for a minimum of 45 minutes. Alternate operating temperatures and cycle times may be demonstrated through validation testing.

3. Microwave radiation power of the treatment process shall be at least six units each having a power of 1,200 watts or the equivalent power output.

4. Each microwave treatment unit shall be equipped to sense, display, and continuously record the temperature at the start, middle, and end of the treatment chamber.

5. Process temperatures at the exposure chamber entry and exit and the waste flow rate shall be continuously monitored, displayed, and recorded.

6. Validation and periodic challenge testing shall be performed using biological indicators utilizing spores from the bacterial species Bacillus atrophaeus.

E. The requirements in this subsection are applicable to dry heat treatment methods.

1. Dry heat systems shall be operated per the following operational standards:

a. Temperature of not less than 320oF (160°C) for 120 minutes;

b. Temperature of not less than 340oF (170°C) for 60 minutes; or

c. Temperature of not less than 360oF (180°C) for 30 minutes.

Alternate operating temperatures and cycle times may be demonstrated through validation testing.

2. Each treatment unit shall be equipped to sense, display, and continuously record the temperature of the treatment chamber.

3. Unless otherwise approved by the department, no treatment unit employing dry heat as the main treatment process shall have a treatment chamber capacity greater than 1.0 cubic foot in volume.

4. Validation and periodic challenge testing shall be performed using biological indicators utilizing spores from the bacterial species Bacillus atrophaeus.

F. The requirements in this subsection are applicable to chemical treatment methods.

1. Operating standards for chemical treatment systems are dependent on the chemical concentration and exposure time. Facilities wishing to employ a chemical treatment system shall submit an alternate treatment technology petition per 9VAC20-121-250 to justify the proposed operating parameters. Once the petition is approved, chemical concentration and treatment time operating parameters shall be demonstrated through validation testing in the presence of the maximum anticipated organic waste content.

2. The facility shall maintain registration for the chemical used in the treatment system in accordance with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, if required.

3. Containers holding chemicals shall be labeled in accordance with 40 CFR 156 (Labeling Requirements for Pesticides and Devices), and the facility shall maintain Safety Data Sheets for all chemicals related to the chemical treatment system.

4. Validation and periodic challenge testing shall be performed using biological indicators utilizing spores from the bacterial species Bacillus subtilis or Bacillus atropheus.

G. The requirements in this subsection are applicable to alkaline hydrolysis treatment methods. Alkaline hydrolysis is a process by which heat and pressure dissolve and sterilize regulated medical waste in a strong solution of sodium or potassium hydroxide (NaOH or KOH, respectively).

1. Alkaline hydrolysis shall only be used for treatment of human pathological and anatomical waste, including tissues, organs, body parts, other related waste, and animal carcasses.

2. Systems that operate above atmospheric pressure must employ a dissolution chamber that is a certified pressure vessel by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

3. Operating parameters for alkaline hydrolysis systems vary depending on the amount of regulated medical waste to be treated and the type of contamination:

a. To inactivate microbial pathogens, the waste must be heated to 212oF (100oC), and pressurized at 15 pounds per square inch for three hours;

b. To destroy transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE), including bovine spongiform encephalopathy, the waste must be heated to 300oF (150oC) and pressurized at 70 pounds per square inch for six to eight hours.

c. Chemical concentration and treatment time shall be demonstrated through validation testing in the presence of the worst case organic material waste content.

4. Treatment shall ensure the complete dissolution of all tissue remains, if applicable, and any solids left shall be disposed of at a solid waste management facility permitted to receive it.

5. Validation and periodic challenge testing shall be performed using biological indicators utilizing spores from the bacterial species Geobacillus stearothermophilus.

H. The requirements in this subsection are applicable to incineration treatment methods.

1. All incinerators shall be permitted under regulations of the State Air Pollution Control Board and be in compliance with the regulations of that body.

2. All combustible regulated medical waste shall be converted by the incineration process into ash that is not recognizable as to its former character.

3. Analysis of ash and air pollution control residues:

a. Incinerator bottom ash and residues collected from air pollution control equipment shall be collected separately in leak resistant containers with runoff controls to prevent releases from the ash storage. Incinerator bottom ash and air pollution control residues shall be stored separately until sample testing per subdivision 3 b of this subsection is performed and the waste streams are determined to be a solid waste.

b. Testing requirements:

(1) Representative samples consisting of 250 milliliters of each waste stream shall be collected once every eight hours of operation of a continuously fed incinerator and once every batch or 24 hours of operation of a batch fed incinerator. Samples shall be collected during each 1,000 hours of operation or quarterly, whichever is more often, and samples shall be thoroughly mixed and seven random portions of equal volume shall be composited into one sample for laboratory analysis. This sample shall be tested in accordance with the methods established by the Virginia Hazardous Waste Management Regulations (9VAC20-60) for determining if a solid waste is a hazardous waste.

(2) In addition to subdivision 3 b (1) of this subsection, composite samples of incinerator bottom ash shall be tested for total organic content.

c. If ash or air pollution control residues are found to be hazardous waste (based on a sample and a confirmation sample) the waste ash shall be managed of as a hazardous waste in accord with the Virginia Hazardous Waste Management Regulations (9VAC20-60). The operator shall notify the department within 24 hours. No later than 15 calendar days following, the permittee shall submit a plan for treating and disposing of the waste on hand at the facility and all unsatisfactorily treated waste that has left the facility. The permittee shall include with the plan a description of the corrective actions to be taken to prevent further unsatisfactory performance. No ash or air pollution control residues subsequently generated from the incinerator waste stream found to be hazardous waste shall be sent to a nonhazardous solid waste management facility in the Commonwealth unless written approval of the director is obtained in accordance with Solid Waste Management Regulations (9VAC20-81).

d. If ash or air pollution control residues are found not to be hazardous waste by analysis, they may be disposed of in a solid waste landfill that is permitted to receive municipal solid waste or incinerator ash, provided the disposal is in accordance with the Solid Waste Management Regulations (9VAC20-81).

e. A log shall document the ash sampling, to include the date and time of each sample collected; the date, time, and identification number of each composite sample; and the results of the analyses, including laboratory identification. Results of analyses must be returned from the laboratory and recorded within four weeks following collection of the composite sample. The results and records described in this part shall be maintained for a period of three years, and shall be available for review.

I. Alternate treatment technologies as reviewed and approved by the department. All alternate treatment technologies approved by the director shall conform to the general treatment standards in subsection B of this section and any additional requirements the department imposes at the time of approval.

1. Any person who desires to use a chemical treatment technology per subsection F of this section or treatment technology, other than those described in subsections C, D, and E or subsections G and H of this section, shall petition the director for a review under 9VAC20-121-250.

2. If the director finds that the technology and application is in accordance with this part, the department may consider the facility for permitting.

Statutory Authority

§ 10.1-1402 of the Code of Virginia; 42 USC § 6941 et seq.; 40 CFR Part 257.

Historical Notes

Derived from Virginia Register Volume 39, Issue 13, eff. March 15, 2023.

Website addresses provided in the Virginia Administrative Code to documents incorporated by reference are for the reader's convenience only, may not necessarily be active or current, and should not be relied upon. To ensure the information incorporated by reference is accurate, the reader is encouraged to use the source document described in the regulation.

As a service to the public, the Virginia Administrative Code is provided online by the Virginia General Assembly. We are unable to answer legal questions or respond to requests for legal advice, including application of law to specific fact. To understand and protect your legal rights, you should consult an attorney.