RICHMOND – A Richmond-based dentist and his father have until late April to respond to citations issued Feb. 24 by the McHenry County Health Department.
The department alleged that Dr. David Domenella and his father, Otello, failed to comply with state Environmental Protection Agency regulations for disposal of X-ray chemicals and other waste materials.
The two men have 45 days from the receipt of the citations to test the chemical waste for silver content, send a report to the health department determining whether the chemical waste is hazardous, and come up with a plan for its removal, officials said.
Pat McNulty, a public health administrator with the health department, said that maximum safe concentration for silver in solid waste was 5 parts per million.
“If the material is deemed hazardous, that is when the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency would come in,” McNulty said.
According to a health department report obtained by the Northwest Herald through a Freedom of Information Act request, an estimated 32 gallons of used X-ray developer solution was found Feb. 11 at Otello Domenella’s Harvard-area farm.
When interviewed about the proper disposal methods of fixer solutions, Dr. Frank Maggio, a member of the McHenry County Dental Society with a periodontal practice in Elgin, said that he didn’t see anything wrong with Domenella’s methods.
He also disputed claims by Edie Sehr, who worked at Domenella’s office and alleged that she had developed hypothyroidism from long-term exposure to the used X-ray solution. The McHenry County Department of Health began its investigation into Domenella as a result of Sehr's claims.
“I’m very surprised at the statement issued about hypothyroidism; that’s sensationalism,” Maggio said.
Maggio also said that dentists could store this type of material as long as they wished. Once they feel they have obtained a sufficient quantity, an authorized waste hauler picks it up.
Kate Koenig, a spokeswoman for HazChem Environmental Corp., said that her company typically charged $175 for the disposal of 32 gallons of X-ray solution.
When asked why a dentist would store the waste material in a barn, Maggio said “simply as somewhere to place it or keep it.”
“There’s no guidelines saying it can only be kept at a certain temperature or location,” Maggio said. “He could keep it in a garage, in a storage unit. You could keep it anywhere.”
But McNulty said there was concern about the chemical makeup of the waste.
“The concentration of silver in that product is one of the primary concerns,” McNulty said. “In itself the chemical that’s used is a very low toxicity, but we don’t know exactly what’s all there until a determination is made. Too much silver is a bad thing, whether it’s to aquatic life or human life.
“We know what was in the brand new stuff when they purchased it, but we don’t know what’s all in there at this point.”
McNulty said health effects from exposure to excessive amounts could include permanent coloration of the skin; skin, lung and throat irritations; breathing problems; kidney issues and stomach pain. These effects are based on exposure through ingestion or skin contact.
Maggio said exposure to silver during normal X-ray film processing was minimal.
“In any processing of any type of film there is silver in it, but there’s no harm as long as it’s stored and then recycled,” Maggio said.
The citations centered on the disposal methods used, include open dumping; conducting waste storage, treatment or waste-disposal operation without a permit and in violation of any regulations or standards adopted by the board; disposing, treating, storing or transporting any waste into the state at sites not meeting requirements of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act requirements; littering; failure to submit an application for a permit to develop and operate a landfill; and hazardous waste determination.
In the report, McHenry County Health officials said that Otello Domenella refused to allow them to search the barn on his Harvard property Feb. 11.
According to the health department’s report, health officials later arrived at the dentist’s office.
The report states that, when Dr. Domenella was interviewed, he acknowledged storing barrels in his father’s barn of a chemical referred to as Kodak Fixer Working Solution. When his father arrived at the office, Otello Domenella told officials that he had no knowledge of the chemical being stored in his barn. Several unlabeled jugs of solution also were found at Domenella’s office.
Sue Hofer, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation, said no disciplinary action had taken place, but the report from the health department states that a complaint was filed with IDPR against Dr. Domenella.
Hofer explained that if the IDPR finds a violation of the dental practice act, they refer it to their prosecution unit and begin the formal disciplinary process. That can result in anything from a finding of no violation to a suspension or revocation of a license.
Domenella still is practicing. He declined to comment for this article, but previously has said that he had done nothing wrong and viewed the investigation as a typical example of bureaucracy wasting money and going over the top. He also previously said that he had been storing used X-ray developer solution in his father’s barn for 25 years.