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Group wants Stericycle shut down in light of air quality violation

North Salt Lake residents listen as Bradley Angel, executive director of Greenaction, questions safety of Stericycle plant.
North Salt Lake residents listen as Bradley Angel, executive director of Greenaction, questions safety of Stericycle plant.
Kim Raff, Deseret Morning News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's leading air quality organization made up of doctors wants state regulators to yank the permit of a North Salt Lake medical waste incinerator company because of "egregious" violations reported in late May.

Dr. Brian Moench, president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, said the state Division of Air Quality should hold a public hearing when it comes to deciding the potential penalty levied against Stericycle.

The incineration plant was issued a notice of violation May 28 by the division after staff determined routine stack tests failed the company's permit limits for hazardous pollutants released into the air. In addition, the division said logs of how much waste was being incinerated were altered to reflect operational uniformity that does not reflect the reality of day-to-day business.

Stericycle can dispute the notice of a violation and fight any penalty assessed. Ultimately, an administrative law judge could be asked to settle any long-standing dispute if a violation is upheld. Attempts to reach Stericycle officials for comment Monday were unsuccessful.

Moench said the industrial plant has no business being in the midst of neighborhoods that have grown up around it.

"It's time has come and gone," Moench said. "Given this violation, now is the time to completely re-examine where this business is being allowed to operate in this residential area."

Under its permit, the Illinois-based company can burn up to 2,500 pounds of medical waste per hour and 7,000 tons of waste per year. Some of that waste includes human tissue from hospitals and clinics, and waste from mortuaries and veterinary clinics.

Classified as nonhazardous, the waste still includes blood-borne pathogens and other matter critics say would be best disposed of in a landfill or treated via autoclave. Stericycle has worldwide clients, but its North Salt Lake location is the leading plant for the Western United States.

Last week, concerned residents went to a North Salt Lake City Council meeting to demand answers, and they're now circulating an online petition expressing their desire for more accountability.

Bryce Bird, director of the Utah Division of Air Quality, said the violations against Stericycle will not be taken lightly.

"The notice of violations puts Stericycle on notice that we question their ability to operate the incinerator at all times in compliance with the permit conditions," he said.

As the regulatory process plays out, Bird noted that any actions taken by the division will be determined by Stericycle's response and what assurances are put into place.


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