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An international waste management company has become the second entrant in the race to build a medical waste incinerator in Utah.

Officials with Browning-Ferris Industries want to build a $1.3 million to $1.5 million plant on one of two six-acre parcels in the North Salt Lake Industrial Park, said Michael B. Ayers, vice president of BFI's medical waste division.Already, Preferred Reduction Service has asked to build a medical waste incinerator in West Jordan.

The BFI plant would process about 60 tons a day of infectious waste. By comparison, the Davis Solid Waste Management District's burn plant in Layton burns about 350 tons of regular trash a day.

"Currently we serve all of Salt Lake and Ogden as well as Provo. We are also looking at providing services to St. George," Ayers said. "We have also had a lot of inquiries and interest in providing service to Southern Idaho."

The plant would employ between 20 and 30 workers.

The company will host an open house on May 22 from 3 to 9 p.m. at North Salt Lake City Hall, 20 S. Highway 89.

Questions have been raised about the environmental safety of such incinerators, particularly because burning plastics can produce cancer-causing dioxins, and toxic heavy metals in ash could exceed federal levels.

"The facility we are building here is the best available technology," said Ayers.

The incinerator would be heated by natural gas and have an air emissions scrubbing system. Tests at other plants have shown that there are no toxic levels of metals in medical waste ash, Ayer said. Ash could be safely dumped at the Davis Waste Management district's landfill in Layton.

"From what we have seen it will be equipped to take a high percentage of the (toxic) gases," said Dave Kopta with the Utah Department of Health's Bureau of Air Quality.

The company has yet to apply for a permit from the bureau, which would be required to have a public hearing and 30-day comment period. The company has also applied for a conditional use permit with the North Salt Lake Planning and Zoning Commission. Final approval must come from the City Council.

"As regulations become more and more restrictive on what health care industries can do, there has been more and more demand on us to provide the services," Ayers said.

The company currently provides medical waste disposal for about 70 clients, including clinics, plasma centers and eight large hospitals in the area. The proposed plant is expected to boost the number of customers the company serves.

The company's Utah disposal system has been in operation since 1987.