Environmental activists and concerned residents rallied in front of Governor Gary Herbert’s office Thursday to let him know that they would not be satisfied until Stericycle’s medical waste incinerator in North Salt Lake is shut down. A recent health report by the state, and news that the company may move its incinerator to Tooele County have not changed protestors' minds.
Earlier this week, the Utah Department of Health released the results of a study looking at cancer cases near the incinerator in Davis County. They found slightly elevated risk for some types of cancer, but found no evidence to suggest an increase of environmentally caused cancer in the area. Representing Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, Dr. Brian Moench stood in front of the Governor’s office and blasted the report and its conclusions.
“Any characterization that this in some way scientifically exonerates Stericycle is inappropriate, unsubstantiated by the evidence, and nothing changes regarding the legitimacy of the effort by these citizens to close the incinerator,” Moench said. “The preponderance of the evidence from the entire body of worldwide medical research is that incinerators are health hazards.”
Dr. Moench cited an extensive study which looked at 14 million people over more than a decade and found increased cancer rates for those living within 7.5 miles of an incinerator. Representatives from medical waste companies that use alternative methods for disposal stood up to say they were happy to provide their services in Utah. Community organizer Alicia Connell says she doesn’t understand why the state would want to move the incinerator to Tooele County when they could replace it with a more modern waste disposal method.
“The fact that there are new alternative, safer technologies with zero emissions in a state that has major inversion problems and air quality issues – why would we open another incinerator that’s so outdated and unnecessary?,” Connell asks.
After months of asking the Governor for a meeting, Connell says he has agreed to meet with her group on February 26th. Connell has also requested a public meeting with the Division of Air Quality about Stericycle’s permit, which is now up for renewal.