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Leading environmental investigator takes on medical waste facility in North Salt Lake

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Posted at 9:59 PM, Sep 03, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-03 23:59:47-04

NORTH SALT LAKE -- The lead environmental investigator who famously works with Erin Brockovich was in North Salt Lake Tuesday night helping a group of residents concerned about Stericycle, a medical waste facility in their community.

The group wants the company to shut down its incinerator, but the city's hands may be tied.

"There are five elementary schools within one mile of a hazardous medical waste incinerator," said Bob Bowcock, an environmental investigator from California who also works with Brockovich.

Bowcock is hoping to help the small residential community of Foxboro in North Salt Lake, which wants Stericyle to make major changes to the way it gets rid of medical waste.

"What the issue is they're allowed to pollute to this level, what happened last year with the state oversight and state regulation is they were polluting to a higher level and they got caught," Bowcock said.

The Divison of Air Quality is investigating Stericycle for falsifying documents and emitting more pollutants than legally allowed. The medical waste facility was shut down for days and, while the state investigation is ongoing, the incinerator continues to operate. Nearby residents are worried the pollution is toxic.

"I want the incinerator shut down," said Foxboro resident Sarah Sargent.

Dozens of homeowners who live near Stericycle showed up to a council meeting to voice their concerns.

"I guess I'm here to see what the city council thinks of that and what they might be able to do about it," said Brad Madsen, another Foxboro resident.

The meeting, however, was short-lived.

"Everybody wants clean air and everybody is concerned about Stericycle. Apparently they've done some things they shouldn't have done and we're not happy with that," said North Salt Lake Mayor Len Arvae, who was on the planning commission a decade ago when development of residential neighborhoods near Stericycle was being decided.

Arvae says despite The Division of Air Quality's investigation, the city has no jurisdiction over Stericycle. "It may be enough with a different jurisdiction than we have, our alternatives would be through the conditional use permit and we're not certain what exactly what we can do there, I think it's preliminary and it's hard to discuss it with any potential litigation."

The Mayor says the city does have power over Stericycle's conditional permit but attempting to shut down the company's incinerator could result in a lengthy legal battle.

In the meantime, some Foxboro residents and environmental groups plan on rallying in front of a town hall meeting Wednesday evening at 6:30, which will be hosted by Utah Congressman Chris Stewart. Rep. Stewart represents North Salt Lake and residents there are hoping he hears them out.