Why Environmental Activists Want a North Salt Lake Medical Waste Incinerator Closed Down
Environmental advocates and concerned residents will be holding a protest Tuesday evening at Stericycle’s medical waste incinerator in North Salt Lake. They want the incinerator – which emits dioxins and other toxic chemicals - shut down.
Protest organizer Bradley Angel is Director of Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice. He says Stericycle’s incinerator is a direct threat to the health of the families in the neighborhood.
“While there is a wide range of hazardous air pollutants that are emitted routinely and supposedly legally under the state permit, the one that is of most concern is what’s called dioxin. It’s been linked to profound ill health effects including cancer, reproductive, development, immune, hormonal problems, endocrine discruption. It is a profoundly toxic chemical,” Angel says.
In May this year, the state Division of Air Quality (DAQ) issued a notice of violation finding that Stericycle was emitting 400 times the amount of dioxin permitted. The DAQ has also accused the company of manipulating emissions tests. Stericycle informed the state two weeks ago that they’ve updated their equipment, bringing the incinerator into compliance. DAQ Director Bryce Bird says the company needs to come up with a plan to ensure the state and the public that they can meet emissions standards at all times.
“Our first priority is compliance, making sure that the company is operating within its requirements," Bird says. "If it’s not, we have the ability to put them on notice, collect penalties, and provide a strong deterrent from future exceedances of those standards. That’s the process that we’re in the middle of right now.”
Air-quality officials have granted Stericycle an extension until the end of this month to decide if the company will try to fight the state’s allegations before penalties are assessed. Protestors say the State Division of Air Quality is not doing enough to protect public health, and they will not feel safe until the incinerator is shut down. Officials from Stericycle did not respond to a request for comment.