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DAQ downplays Stericycle danger
Jul 17, 2013 | 4141 views | 2 2 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
PROTESTERS speak out during a July 2 protest against Stericycle’s emissions. Though the Utah Division of Air Quality is likely to issue fines, it doesn’t see the incinerator as a major polluter.  
Photo by Rebecca Palmer | Davis Clipper
PROTESTERS speak out during a July 2 protest against Stericycle’s emissions. Though the Utah Division of Air Quality is likely to issue fines, it doesn’t see the incinerator as a major polluter. Photo by Rebecca Palmer | Davis Clipper


Clipper Editor

NORTH SALT LAKE — For Utah Division of Air Quality Compliance Officer Harold Burge, the trouble with medical incinerator Stericycle is all part of a days’ work.

“I just really feel bad for the residents,” he said after a recent meeting of the state’s air quality board. “Here they are, they’ve purchased their homes and they’ve got a group of doctors telling them they’re going to die or have terrible things happen to them.”

The air quality agency is very concerned about Stericycle and the violations it has committed and is likely to issue fines, but doesn’t see the medical incinerator as a major polluter.

“If we thought there was an imminent health hazard, nobody would be there,” Burge said. “But when you listen to somebody get up and say we’ve had these health problems and these doctors over here keep telling us how bad this is, I’d be panicked, I’d be upset.”

Burge added that his agency is more concerned about Stericycle’s illegal emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOX) than it is about its dioxin/furan emissions, although the latter is more dangerous. That’s because the NOx emissions went on from at least December of 2011 until spring of this year, but the dioxin emission tests failed only once.

Burge also pointed out that Stericycle emits less than half a pound of dioxin/furan a year.

“There are lots of sources of dioxin/furan and everybody has dioxin in their body,” he said, adding that the science to determine the danger level of various amounts of dioxin is very complicated.

“I know the residents are worked up,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of panic and fear involved, and having a group of doctors or Greeanaction or somebody let you know constantly, ‘hey this stuff will kill ya.’ Й I feel bad for the residents.”

Senator Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, has attended the meetings and protests about Stericycle, and started in politics with a fight against the oil refinery that exploded within two miles of his home.

He pledged to run a bill that would further restrict Stericycle if that’s what his constituents wanted, but said at the town hall meeting last month that it wouldn’t get very far in the Utah legislature because it would be seen as anti-business.

“I don’t want to blow a bunch of false hope into you,” he said. “I am your side. I am an advocate, but I also want to be realistic.”

For its part, Stericycle has pledged to fully comply with the notice of violation it received in June. The company also volunteered to do yearly stack testing for the next three years, instead of once every three-to-five years, as required by law.

In a June 14 letter to the air division, the company wrote that it has already installed a non-catalytic reduction control unit, has fixed a broken scrubber that might have contributed to the bad tests and will better control the amount of waste it burns so as not to violate dioxin rules and, among other things.  

Comments-icon Post a Comment
July 18, 2013
The problem with the Division of Air Quality is the engineers determine a permit is feasible, ergo it is feasible without regards to public health and environment effects.
July 18, 2013
The doctors have the people's best interest at heart. They have sacrificed many things to care for the people and are some of the smartest people that live.

I lived in the area for 2 years and had to leave. My asthma had gotten worst. It is a health hazard. I had to move for the asthma to get better. My doctor told me not to move back unless I found a place with clean air.

Eight states ship their medical waste to Utah to be incinerated. The other states care about their citizens and don't want their people exposed the the toxins. The other states don't want the medical costs the the toxins cause.

Stericycle said that it wanted to be good neighbors. However, they falsified their records for three years. Utah government chooses to believe a company that lies. Utah Division of Air Quality said it was not a imminent health hazard. How many children need to be born with health problems? How many people need to die of asthma? How many people will develop cancer in the future? When will it become a imminent health hazard?

I love Utah and the people. However I feel angry at the government that puts business above the health of the citizens.

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