Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Investigation Finds High Levels of Toxic Pollutant in Homes Near Stericycle

Photo courtesy Foxboro residents

Environmental investigators working with Erin Brockovich have uncovered some new evidence that hazardous chemicals are accumulating in the homes of those who live close to Stericycle’s medical waste incinerator in North Salt Lake.  An investigator from the Brockovich team and community advocates met with Governor Gary Herbert Wednesday to share their findings.

One month ago, a California toxicology team came with their hazmat suits to test the attic dust of homes in the Foxboro neighborhood for dioxin – a highly toxic compound that can damage the immune system, interfere with hormones, cause cancer, as well as reproductive and developmental problems. Environmental investigator Robert Bowcock says he just received the results this week, and his fears were confirmed.

“The background level for dioxin in this particular area as denoted by EPA is 4 units of measurement. The attic dust at the home adjacent to Stericycle is 72.6. So what this evidence provides is concrete fact that the dioxin from Stericycle is accumulating on the private properties within the Foxboro community. Now we have conclusive evidence of the pathway for exposure,” Bowcock says.  

“I live a block behind Stericycle, and these results are terrifying,” Foxboro resident Natasha Hincks says. “We can’t just sell our home. We’re stuck until we do something. We’ve been worrying about this for a long time, and results are clear. We are being poisoned by what Stericycle is releasing.”

A stack test from 2011 shows that Stericycle’s incinerator was emitting more than four times the allowable limit of dioxin. The company is now contesting the notice of violation from the Division of Air Quality, and maintains that it is in compliance with its permit.  State Communications Director Marty Carpenter says Governor Gary Herbert is doing everything within his power to address this situation.

“I think in any situation like this, the more information we have, the better,” Carpenter says. “It helps fill in the complete picture of what is actually happening. That’s why what they gave to the governor today is something we’ll look at very carefully with the specialists we have in the various agencies, and take that into consideration as we look to move forward.”

Carpenter says it is not within the governor’s power to shut down Stericycle. He could not say yet whether this new information would impact state support for the company’s desired move to a more remote location in Tooele County, but that Governor Herbert is looking to find the best outcome. Carpenter says residents should expect to hear from the Governor on his next steps within a month.

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
KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.