Residents, lawmakers react after black smoke pours from facility during emergency bypass

Posted at 9:56 PM, May 22, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-22 23:56:56-04

NORTH SALT LAKE, Utah -- A North Salt Lake resident captured video of black smoke polluting their neighborhood Wednesday afternoon.

The culprit? A medical waste incinerator. Stericycle blames it on a power outage, calling it an emergency bypass.

Soot and flames are released from the medical waste incinerator's smoke stacks during power outages. The company claims they average six a year, but it's just five months into 2014 and residents have already counted four incidents.

"When is enough enough?" asks Alicia Connell with Communities for Clean Air.

She said, until Stericycle leaves North Salt Lake, something needs to be done about stopping the incinerator from releasing any more pollution from its smoke stacks.

"We know it was a power outage, we know why it happened, the concern now is: How can we stop it from happening until they can get moved to their new facility?" asked Connell, who claims all it would take is a reliable backup generator to prevent the power from shutting down.

"The unfortunate thing is, this plant was designed to have bypass event when the power went out or there was an emergency, and those are designed to prevent an explosion or something much much worse," said Senator Todd Weiler, who championed legislation to give the green light for the medical waste facility to move. He is doubtful these bypasses will stop anytime soon.

"It happened during the day time. One of my questions would be is how many of these events are happening at night because, quite frankly, if it happened at 2:00 a.m. no one would know about it,” Weiler said.

FOX 13 News reached out to Stericycle and all they would say is there were some power outages that caused the fan to stop working, so that's what prompted the emergency bypass. A spokesperson said there was only one blowout event after the power loss, and the company even sent out public notices to the city of North Salt Lake and the Division of Air Quality to notify them about the problem.

The legislature passed a law to allow the Division of Air Quality to process a permit for Stericycle to operate in Tooele. That takes about nine months, according to Senator Weiler. Then it will take another six to nine months to build a new facility. Weiler believes it will be at least another year and a half before Stericycle relocates.