GREENFIELD — Anchored to the shiny gray epoxy floor of O3 PureMed’s new Greenfield plant, two large ozone-utilizing waste treatment machines look more like they should be in the cargo bay of the Space Shuttle than a medical waste facility.
Announced last year as a collaboration between Hancock Regional Hospital, which owns the facility and the technology, and Fisk Services, which will conduct transport and operations, O3 PureMed is looking toward an October opening, pending the outcome of recent test results from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
From groundbreaking to final testing, development of the facility went smoothly, said Becky Molnar, hospital organizational development specialist, who is heading up the project.
“It usually takes 11 months for approval, but we got ours in seven and a half months,” she said.
Once the final test results are in, and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management makes a final walk through, the company will be able to process a broad variety of medical, biological and other forms of waste for safe transport to landfills.
The closed-system machines will shred all medical waste, including “sharps” such as needles and blades, and then hit the mass with an “oxidative burst” of humidified ozone, which is comprised of three atoms of oxygen made by the unit itself.
Ozone is highly oxidative and can break down organic, pathologic and chemical substances at the molecular level.
“The minute you turn it on, the ozone starts munching on the bacteria,” Molnar said.
Once the treatment process is completed, the ozone is converted back to oxygen with no harmful emissions or discharges, company officials say.
The byproduct of the process is a sterilized mixture resembling confetti that is safe for traditional landfills.
The hospital invested $1.4 million on the technology, banking not only on “significant savings” on its own waste processing but creating a profit center from the new venture’s excess capacity.
The company currently has seven letters of intent from area hospitals to handle their bio-waste, and Molnar said several other avenues will be pursued as the process is refined.
In addition to surrounding hospitals, any number of industries and institutions that generate bio-hazardous waste are potential customers, from independent physicians’ offices to long-term care centers, research institutions and schools.
“We can do red-bag (biological) waste, sharps, dietary trash, solid waste, medical documents and even some electronic components,” Molnar said.
The facility will employ around a dozen workers as it gets started, with the potential for another eight or so over the course of the next year as business grows, Molnar said.
Kent Fisk said his side of the operation is nearing completion as well.
“We’ll be doing some training here in the next two weeks, but basically, we’re ready,” he said.
Area residents will also benefit from the local processing plant as well.
“We plan on having a community service day once per quarter where people can bring their needles and home medical supplies for disposal, free of charge,” Molnar said. “The need is huge.”
The company anticipates the new plant will become a “show place” for the new technology, drawing interested companies from throughout the country.
In addition to generating an additional revenue stream for the hospital, the company is not bashful about what it sees as its part in improving the environment.
“You can’t miss the trucks,” Molnar said with a smile.
Emblazoned on the back of each roll-off container will be a simple, if not modest, banner proclaiming, “On my way to save the planet. You can thank me later.”