Richmond dentist investigated over chemical storage

RICHMOND – The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has been called in to investigate the manner in which a Richmond dentist has been disposing of solid and chemical wastes after a complaint was filed with the McHenry County Health Department.

Dr. David Domenella said he doesn't think he's done anything wrong and believes his practices – alleged to include improper storage of X-ray developing fluid and improper medical waste disposal – are not harmful.

"This is a typical example of bureaucracy going way over the top, impractically and wastefully," Domenella said. "They're wasting taxpayer money going after someone like me who is environmentally conscious and upstanding."

After investigating a complaint filed Feb. 10 against Domenella, the McHenry County heath officials made referrals this week to five other agencies to further assess the situation, health department spokeswoman Debra Quackenbush said.

"This will remain an ongoing investigation with the health department and five other agencies," she said.

The other agencies now involved are the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation, the village of Richmond, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency's Department of Nuclear Safety.

At least one employee told county health officials that Domenella has been improperly disposing of chemicals used to process X-ray film, as well as teeth and bloody tissues, for many years.

Edie Sehr, who has worked for Domenella for 11 years, recently was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. She believes that it was caused by exposure to the chemicals that Domenella allegedly keeps in a basement at his office building, 9716 Route 12, Richmond.

Sehr said that the chemicals aren't all that she's seen Domenella dispose of improperly.

"He puts his dirty bibs and extracted teeth and bloody items in the trash," Sehr said. She also added that Domenella takes waste containers from his office to his father's Harvard area farm.

State regulations govern the disposal of medical waste, but Domenella said he does not see a problem with tossing some bloodied items in the regular trash.

"I have the volume of blood that isn't anymore than would be in a sanitary napkin in someone's garbage," he said. "That was my common sense of my actions."

Quackenbush said the complaint against Domenella received Thursday, Feb. 10, related to the operations of Domenella's business, as well as the working conditions. She declined to reveal specific findings. The Northwest Herald has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the department in an attempt to gather further details.

"We go in first, do the assessment and now have asked five different agencies to assist with this," Quackenbush said. "We may assist in getting proper disposal resources at the local level after the EPA does their investigation."

"I have no idea when this will be resolved."

Domenella said that he has been storing the X-ray developer for years, delivering more chemicals to his father's Harvard farm every month or so.

"I've been accumulating that material because it contains silver," Domenella said. "Due to the county requesting that I get rid of it, I have contacted a recycler who will pay me to dispose of it."

He added that he believes the investigation is baseless.

"Some of these charges are beyond the realm of common sense," Domenella said. "The county is saying it's wrong to contain these chemicals, which I planned to recycle on my property. It's not getting into the groundwater, it's completely sheltered and it's been there [in the barn] for 25 years."

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