Environmental groups call on Utah governor to shut down Stericycle

Posted at 10:12 PM, Sep 11, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-12 00:12:29-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Protesters have taken their fight to the Governor's door step,  and they're demanding he shut down Stericycle, which is a medical waste facility in North Salt Lake.

The incinerator has come under heavy fire from residents, environmental groups and The Division of Air Quality. Environmental groups said the Governor has the power to declare an emergency and shut down Stericycle, but officials with the Governor's Office said it's not that simple.

Still, concerns over the medical waste facility continue to grow louder by the day. Dozens sat on the steps inside the Capitol Rotunda, while others stood and held up signs all with the same message.

"Some days I go outside and the smell is horrible, and it's hard to breathe," said Ginny Butler, who is a Foxboro Resident.

Her neighborhood is near Stericycle, and she represents one of many who want the incinerator shut down. Leading their fight is Dr. Brian Moench with the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.

"This is a health hazard, a serious health hazard,” Moench said.

He's not calling on the Governor to step in; he thinks Governor Herbert may have the authority to force the plant to close. Ally Isom, Gov. Herbert’s spokeswoman, said the issue doesn't warrant declaring an emergency.

"That might be an overstatement of authority at this point,” Isom said. “Declaring an emergency is reserved for specific circumstances; this doesn't match those circumstances, but it is alarming.”

The concerns over Stericycle's incinerator are alarming enough for the Division of Air Quality, which claims the company emitted more pollution than its permit legally allows. Executive Director Amanda Smith released a statement, saying in part that Stericycle is being closely scrutinized to ensure compliance and if the company doesn't comply, its permit could be revoked.

The DAQ also tells FOX 13 News there may be a criminal investigation under The Department of Justice, but the DOJ hasn't confirmed that. Our calls to Stericycle have gone unanswered. In fact, the only time we've heard from the company was back in July when a spokesperson said this, "I understand the concerns within the community, and we're going to work with the regulators to make sure we maintain compliance and we're committed to ensuring we're in compliance."

That was the first and only time Stericycle has said anything on the record. We do, however, know the company has been in communication not only with North Salt Lake's Mayor, but also with a state senator, who is thinking about running legislation to make it illegal to operate an incinerator.