On eve of clean air rally, Stericycle announces intent to relocate medical incinerator

Posted at 9:46 PM, Jan 24, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY -- After months of public pressure, a North Salt Lake medical waste facility announced its plans to move to Tooele County.

News of Stericycle leaving comes on the heels of what's anticipated to be the largest clean air rally in state history.

Thousands of Utahns are expected to show up to the State Capitol Saturday at noon with face masks on. Their message to lawmakers: Do something about the state's dirty air.

Dr. Brian Moench of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment said people are not pleased by lawmakers’ response to air quality issues. He and several others came to the FOX 13 News studio Friday to discuss the issue.

"The outrage in this community is palpable,” he said. “The state really has not seriously addressed the problem, they haven't offered any meaningful solutions.”

A group of local environmentalists are taking their fight for clean air to the steps of the State Capitol. Alicia Connell with Communities for Clean Air said they expect a large turnout.

"We have over 3,600 signed up on Facebook, but that doesn't include people who aren't on Facebook, so hopefully thousands,"  she said.

The protest could prove to be the largest in recent state history. Organizers said there's power in numbers, and they are hopeful the voices behind their message "clean air, no excuses" is heard by the Utah legislature.

Bryce Bird of The Division of Air Quality spoke to FOX 13 News on Tuesday about the state’s air quality.

"When we're looking at air quality, especially with compared to even other parts of the country, we compare favorable to the majority of the air," he said on Tuesday.

He said while Utah doesn't meet federal air quality standards, there's a plan in place to get the state on track, saying government agencies take it just as seriously as environmentalists and the public does.

"The fact is, we don't meet the federal standards, that's a concern for us, and we need to do everything we can to reduce those emissions and everyone is responsible,” he said.

Meantime in North Salt Lake, Foxboro residents argue their air quality is made worse by a medical waste incinerator.

"Our group, Communities for Clean Air, is trying to shut down an incinerator for Stericycle," Connell said.

The Illinois-based company announced late Friday that Stericycle is in the process of purchasing land west of the Stansbury Mountains. This comes after months of scrutiny, not only from the community, but accusations that the facility violated the DAQ's air standards: claims the company denies.

The fight to stop industries from polluting the air won't stop there. Dr. Brian Moench said people can expect a legal battle over Holly Oil Refinery's expansion plans in Woods Cross.