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Legislative Committee Defeats Bill to Keep Medical Incinerators Away From Homes

Andrea Smardon
The Stericycle medical waste incinerator sits next to homes in the Foxboro neighborhood of North Salt Lake.

  A Utah Senate committee voted down a bill Friday that would have kept medical incinerators at least five miles away from homes. 

Senate Bill 64 would have increased fines for air quality violations by medical waste incinerators, increased the length of time allowed for investigating violations and  imposed a five-mile buffer between homes and any medical waste incinerator in the state.

There’s only one company that could have been affected by the bill, Stericycle.  It’s reportedly planning to move its incinerator from North Salt Lake to a rural location in Tooele County.  Todd Bingham, a lobbyist for the Utah Manufacturing Association, warned the committee that trying to isolate Stericycle could have unintended consequences.

“This is a planning and zoning problem," Bingham told the committee.  "This is an issue where a company, properly permitted, went through all the steps and has been in that location for many, many years.  And now we have homes that have encroached upon that and we’ve got an issue.”

Other witnesses pointed out that Stericycle has been cited for violating its air quality permit, a citation it is contesting.  Residents from the Foxboro development, located right next to Stericycle’s North Salt Lake incinerator, say emissions from the incinerator have significantly impacted their health.

In the end, members of the Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee voted to 6 to 1 to kill the bill.  Democrat Jim Dabakis was the only yes vote.

Afterward, the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Senator Luz Robles, says the issue is impacting the lives of people in nearby neighborhoods.

“This is not just abstract conversation about industry," Robles told KUER.  "This is real lives.  This is someone getting sick.  This is women, this is families losing babies.  I mean, this is a real issue.”

Robles acknowledged the bill had some problems, but she was hoping to get it approved in committee and work those out before it came to the Senate floor.  Her bill is one of about 30 measures dealing with the air quality issue in the current session.

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