NORTH SALT LAKE - Stericycle got the nod it needs to move to Tooele from the State Legislature during the session just concluded, but any facility they may build must be at least two miles from a residential neighborhood.
Stericycle was the focus of a couple of bills and a resolution during the session of the Utah Legislature that ended last week.
Area environmentalists say they have mixed feelings about the legislature’s decision.
“Virtually anything is better than what is going on now. But beyond that, the first thought is that a move will not happen in the time frame needed to protect the residents of North Salt Lake,” said Dr. Brian Moench, president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.
Under current Utah law, for the Division of Environmental Quality to consider allowing Stericycle to move, it must have a statement of support from the Legislature,
That came in a resolution sponsored by Sen. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, granting approval for the construction and operation of a nonhazardous solid waste disposal facility to be built in Tooele County.
The resolution wasn’t without contention though, according to Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross,
Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake, offered an amendment that would have required Stericycle to build the facility within five years. The amendment failed.
““I don’t think they’re going to wait, but the resolution basically gives them (Stericycle) a blank check in terms of when they have to move,” Weiler said on Monday.
He added that while many hold deep suspicions regarding the company’s plans, “I believe they’re sincerely trying to move.”
The company’s plans call for it to purchase 40 acres in a remote industrial area of Tooele County.
Currently Stericycle has an option to purchase the land and has put 10 percent down on the land, “but even today there’s nothing to say that they’re not going to move, or that they could move somewhere else,” Weiler said.
Now that the company has legislative approval, it can apply for permits from the DAQ. If Stericycle gets state approval, it will then apply for a permit from Tooele County.
That all will take time because geographical and archeological surveys haven’t been completed.
Weiler’s bill SB 196 will prohibit any medical waste incinerator from being built within two miles of a residential area.
Weiler said the current facility in North Salt Lake is not only within two miles of neighborhoods in North Salt Lake, but within two miles of Woods Cross, Bountiful, and on the fringes of West Bountiful, even Rose Park in Salt Lake County.
He said he looked at limits found in other states and found most limits ranged between one and three miles.
However, when Stericycle opened in the 1980s, under the law, they met all permitting requirements, Weiler said.
“If I’m in a city with a heavy industrial zone and a business comes in for a permit, I can’t turn them down if they meet the requirements without a lawsuit, “Weiler said, adding Stericycle’s property rights are also important.
“It’s an important statement to make,” he said.
Environmentalists say the move to Tooele County will not stop Stericycle’s pollution from reaching the Wasatch Front.
They also don’t believe Tooele County officials realize the full health consequences.
If that is the case, “Stericycle is exploiting their ignorance,” Moench said.
Stericycle protesters are continuing to fight the company and are planning a protest on April 12 at 2 p.m. at Stericycle, 90 N. 1100 West in North Salt Lake.
Representatives from most of the clean air groups and Foxboro residents are expected and environmental activist Erin Brockovich may attend, Moench said.