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Health, Science & Environment

Bill to Restrict the Permitting of Medical Waste Incinerators Clears Committee

Brian Grimmett
Children play in backyards that are less than a football field a way from Stericycle

A bill that would prohibit the permitting of new medical waste incinerators within two miles of a residential community passed a legislative committee Friday, and now heads to the state Senate for consideration. A Republican lawmaker’s bill has succeeded where a Democrat’s bill failed.

One week ago, Democratic Senator Luz Robles sat before the Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee and argued that medical waste incinerators should not be allowed within five miles of a residential community.  Her bill would have forced Stericycle to close down its existing North Salt Lake City facility by 2015. After a lengthy debate, Robles’ bill was rejected by the committee. This week, Republican Senator Todd Weiler sat before the same committee.

“I want to first start off by saying that this bill is very different than Senator Robles’ bill. It’s much more limited, more surgical in terms of where it’s striking. This bill would not shut down Stericycle, it would not affect what Stericycle is doing,” Weiler told the committee.

Weiler’s Senate Bill 196 would prohibit new incinerators of infectious waste or chemotherapeutic agents from being permitted within two miles of existing residential communities. The bill specifies that it only applies to incinerators not in operation as of May 2014. The bill would not prevent Stericycle from building a new facility in Tooele County which the company says it intends to do. Carl Ingwell representing Utah Clean Air Alliance spoke in support of the bill, saying it was a good first step.

“This bill today - Senator Weiler’s bill - ensures that something like Stericycle in North Salt Lake won’t happen again,” Ingwell said.

Environmental activists and Davis County residents have called for Stericycle to be shut down after the Division of Air Quality cited it for violations of its permit last year. Stericycle officials are contesting the violations and maintain that the incinerator is compliance with its permit. Senate Bill 196 passed the committee unanimously with little discussion and now heads to the full Senate.

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