Utahns protest medical waste facility in North Salt Lake

Posted at 9:36 PM, Jul 02, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-02 23:36:58-04

NORTH SALT LAKE, Utah -- Dozens of Utahns protested in front of a medical waste facility Tuesday night, demanding the company leave their community.

Residents of Foxboro in North Salt Lake said the high levels of pollution are impacting their health. Stericycle was there long before them, however Fox 13 has learned the company's fate may be sealed.

Stericycle has faced criticism ever since The Utah Division of Air Quality took action against the company for exceeding its permit and for falsifying documents, and now there's growing public pressure. The street in front of their facility was lined with residents holding up signs, some of which said: "Protect our babies."

Leading Tuesday's protest was a familiar face in the fight for cleaner air, Dr. Brian Moench, the President of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.

"We hope the company sees that there's public pressure and a demand for this place to be shut down," he said.

Moench said Stericycle, a company which uses an incinerator to get rid of medical waste, is emitting toxic pollutants.

"We found that the medical studies show that in fact people who live near one of these facilities do have higher rates of just about every sort of health problem you can imagine, from cancer, to birth defects to autism,” he said.

Residents, like Marianne Cone, said they think the facility is literally making them sick.

"Even the amount that they are allowed to pollute when they're not violating their contract is a lot of pollutants put into the air, and it's really unhealthy for our kids breathing,” she said.

Foxboro resident Sarah Sargent said she wants the company to relocate.

"I don't want to move,” she said. “No. I want them to move. I want the incinerator to be shut down or the company to just be gone.”

Last week at a city council meeting, residents packed a room asking for answers.

Harold Burge, the Major Source Compliance Manager for DAQ said, "We're in the process now that they've demonstrated compliance with all their emission limits and their permit conditions now what we have to do is go through and work out the penalty process."

Stericycle Company Sokeswoman Selin Hoboy said, "I understand the concerns within the community, and we are going to work with the regulators to make sure that we maintain compliance, and we're committed to insuring that we're being in compliance.”

Senator Jim Dabakis was also at the protest, and he said change won't come until there's more regulation, and that starts with the Utah Legislature.

"The legislature has a, ‘We don't want to hear about regulations. We don't want to get involved. We don't want regulations, and we will accept only the minimum number of regulations that the federal government requires,’” he said. “It is because they listen to the corporate polluters voice, and they get campaign contributions."

Late Tuesday evening, a spokesperson with the DAQ said given the recent violations the agency is growing more concerned and is skeptical whether or not Stericycle can operate anymore.