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Tooele County Residents Question Panel on Incinerator

Andrea Smardon
A Tooele County resident looks over Stericycle's informational posters at a town hall event at Stansbury High School. (May 14, 2014)

Tooele County citizens met Wednesday night to talk about the possibility of letting Stericycle build a new medical waste incinerator in the area. After a series of informational meetings organized by Stericycle, this town hall was organized by residents.

The meeting at Stansbury High School was organized by Katrina Hill of Stansbury Park, who says she’s never done anything like this before.

“I am a stay-at-home mom, and this is not my thing,” Hill says. “This is something new to me.” Hill says she had a lot of questions about Stericycle moving into the neighborhood. She says there has been plenty of debate among Tooele County neighbors about the proposed relocation from North Salt Lake, but not a lot of information.

"Are they safe? Are they not safe? I am tired of hearing opinions by people who don't really know the answer."

“Are they safe? Are they not safe? I am tired of hearing opinions by people who don’t really know the answer so I thought it was important to come out and get the facts straight from those involved,” Hill says.

The event was nothing like the angry group that filled a school auditorium in North Salt Lake when Erin Brockovich came last summer to protest Stericycle’s incinerator. Just a few dozen interested citizens came to hear from a panel that included a representative from Stericycle, the Tooele County Health Department, the County Commission, and the group Communities for Clean Air that has been trying to get Stericycle’s incinerator out of North Salt Lake. The proposed location is a 40 acre parcel on state school trust land, north of I-80, south of US Magnesium, and west of the Great Salt Lake. One of their closest neighbors would be Jeff McNeill, who lives in an unincorporated part of Tooele county, and came to the meeting to find out more.

“One of my biggest concerns in North Salt Lake was the fact that North Salt Lake City allowed housing to back right up to this industry that was there first and that they knew incinerated, that they knew would potentially cause hard feelings between the neighbors, and yet they allowed that zoning to happen,” McNeill says.

A representative from Stericycle pointed out that  the selected location is about 20 miles from the nearest residential area, and that the new facility would be required to meet tighter federal standards, with emissions reductions for most pollutants up to 90 percent. Some residents had questions about how the incinerator would be monitored, some encouraged the county to impose stiff fines to keep the company in line and protect citizens. Katrina Hill came away from the meeting reassured.

“Seeing the changes that they are planning to make for their new facility, and the tighter regulations that they will be held to, it does make me feel a lot better about them coming here,” Hill says.

Stericycle representatives say they will likely be applying for a conditional use permit this summer, but the process would take at least two years.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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