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Stericycle responds after Gov. Herbert calls for criminal investigation into facility

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Posted at 3:37 PM, Sep 25, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-25 20:20:08-04

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Gov. Gary Herbert announced Thursday he is launching three investigations into a medical waste disposal facility in the wake of recent allegations made against the facility, and he has asked the Utah Attorney General’s Office to open a criminal investigation.

Stericycle in North Salt Lake has been the focus of protests and demonstrations for many months, as residents are upset about the black plumes of smoke that sometimes appear above the facility during bypasses. Earlier, the company stated they hoped to relocate the facility to Tooele County.

According to information from the governor’s office, the investigations are in response to “new allegations concerning public health and safety,” and will look “into alleged misconduct at the Stericycle facility in North Salt Lake.”

FOX 13 News has reached out to Stericycle for comment, and officials with the company released a statement, saying in part that they believe many of the allegations against them are "inaccurate and unfounded."

Officials stated they will fully cooperate with state agencies during the investigations. Scroll to the bottom of this story for the full statement from Stericycle.

The governor stated he has asked the AG’s Office to open a criminal investigation, which he said would allow the state to conduct a more thorough investigation.

The Department of Environmental Quality is looking into possible violations of regulations relating to the parameters Stericycle’s permits began mandating September 17.

Clean air advocates called for a shutdown of the facility at that time, click here for details.

The Utah Labor Commission is also looking into potential violations of occupational safety and health standards that could endanger those who work at the facility.

According to the statement from the Governor’s Office:

"In recent months, the DEQ has increased compliance inspections, which are now conducted daily. The state has also required Stericycle to better protect surrounding communities by:

  1. Requiring installation of enhanced emission controls that meet current, more stringent EPA standards. Installation of new controls will reduce emissions of all pollutants.
  2. Requiring installation of a new emergency generator to reduce emergency bypass events.
  3. Requiring installation of continuous emission monitors at the facility.

 

The governor has directed the investigations to be completed as soon as possible. If any of the allegations are ultimately substantiated, he intends to use his full authority take swift and aggressive corrective action."

The statement from Stericycle is reproduced in its entirety below:

"We were just made aware of Governor’s press release.  We were not notified in advance of the Governor’s decision and only learned of it when the media contacted us this afternoon.  We believe that the Governor’s actions are a result of recent allegations made by an anonymous individual (who may or may not be an former employee).  We believe that many of allegations are inaccurate and unfounded, and we believe that we have been operating our facility in compliance with applicable regulations.  However, Stericycle is a company that takes safety and compliance issues very seriously.  Accordingly, we have been cooperating with local regulators over the past few weeks, and we will continue to cooperate fully with other state agencies as they conduct their investigations.

 As the Governor’s statement indicates, Stericycle is intensely scrutinized by regulatory agencies – at present 15 agencies regulate our operations.  We have been rigorously and continuously inspected over the past many months and have been found to be in compliance with our permit conditions and applicable regulations.

 Last year, similar allegations were made concerning public health risks posed by our facility.  After the Governor ordered an investigation, the results from two different Department of Health studies indicated that emissions from our facility presented no health risk to the surrounding community.  In the end, those allegations were unfounded."

 Click here for more of FOX 13 News' coverage regarding the ongoing controversy.