BY REBECCA PALMER
NORTH SALT LAKE – The Utah Division of Air Quality has extended the time limit for medical waste incinerator Stericycle to file an appeal regarding violations that date back to December of 2012.
The extension of 30 days means that Stericycle will have until the end of August to file the appeal. The alleged violations concern many things, including illegal emissions of dioxin furan and nitrogen oxide, a failure to report those emissions in keeping with its permit and a falsification of records about one of the tests that found the plant to be exceeding emission standards.
Tests that showed dioxin furan overages were recorded on one day in 2011. The company then replaced the original test results with results from a new test, which was conducted after it made changes to the type of material being burned and changed a sensor, according to a Notice of Violation from the air quality board. Since then, the company has denied that it exceeded the limits on that test.
That meant a delay in notifying the public about the overages, but the air quality division had enough evidence to give the notice by the end of May, 2013.
“They haven’t been forthcoming with information and responding, that is certainly true,” said Bryce Bird, air quality division director, explaining the delay.
Dioxin furan is a toxic chemical and a likely carcinogenic substance that is created as the medical waste, such as plastic, is incinerated, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In animals, it has been found to affect hormone systems, fetal development, reproductive capacity and immunosuppression.
Overages of nitrogen oxide continued from late 2011 until spring of 2013. That highly reactive chemical contributes to the formation of ground-level ozone and fine particle pollution, and is linked with a number of adverse effects on the respiratory system. In northern Utah, ozone is a major problem during summer months and fine particulates in the air during the winter make the air here among the worst in the nation.
This spring, Stericycle made improvements to its emissions controls and the most recent tests show that the emissions of both nitrogen oxide and dioxin furan are in keeping with its permit.
During the extended time period, the division will work with Stericycle to reach an agreement to resolve the Notice of Violation, a formal document that goes beyond notices of less serious permit violations, said Bird. The discussions so far have considered options for financial penalties and increased pollution controls.
The division can discuss those options more freely later, Bird said.
If an agreement is not met, Stericycle could file a formal appeal to the Notice of Violation in an administrative court. If that happens, it would be the company’s first legal action challenging the faulty test findings.