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Environmentalists Oppose North Salt Lake Incinerator’s Permit Renewal

Courtesy DEQ
Sharps containers and red bag waste going up the feed belt to the incinerator in a site inspection by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

An environmental group is opposing the renewal of an air quality permit for Stericycle’s medical waste incinerator in North Salt Lake City. The public comment period closes Friday.

In December, Stericycle agreed to pay a 2.3 million dollar fine to resolve allegations that their incinerator in North Salt Lake violated emissions limits of hazardous pollutants and falsified stack test results. Under the terms of the settlement, Stericycle will only have to pay half of the penalty if it moves its operations to Tooele County. The company has also installed improved emissions controls to comply with more strict federal standards. Now, the North Salt Lake facility’s air quality permit is up for renewal. Bradley Angel is Executive Director of Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice. He’s opposed to renewing the permit, and he says the state has made inappropriate promises to the company in its settlement.

“What’s the message it sends to big corporate polluters in Utah communities?” Angel asks. “It says, you can violate the law, you can pollute beyond what the government has allowed you to do. You can rig your tests, and you can submit false reports, and we’re going to reward you with promises of permits before you even apply for them? I mean that’s crazy!”

“There are no permits promised under that settlement,” says Bryce Bird, Director of the Utah Division of Air Quality. “It does talk about time frames and timelines, and of course there are if and thens included in that, but certainly it would not circumvent or substitute the legal requirement to obtain a permit and of course the public process that is involved in that.”

The settlement gives Stericycle a three-year deadline to shut down its North Salt Lake facility, but the clock on that deadline only starts after its permit applications to move to Tooele County are approved. Stericycle’s plans for the new site were submitted to the state in February. The proposal would more than double the amount of medical waste they could burn in Utah. Bird says the permits for the new facility will likely be open for public comment in a matter of months.

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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