Victory for clean air: Stericycle closes medical waste incinerator

UPHE celebrated a long fought victory today with a press conference outside of Stericycle’s office. Stericycle, for 33 years, has been polluting the air of Davis County with toxic chemicals emitted from their medical waste incinerator. UPHE has been supporting community members in their fight to clean up the air by shutting down this incinerator for nine years. 

Even well operated incinerators, and medical waste incinerators in particular, are well documented public health hazards, increasing rates of serious diseases like cancer, endocrine disorders, infertility, and birth defects, for people living as far away as 7 km. and further. Stericycle was hardly well operated. “The plant was exceeding its emission limits and had rigged stack tests to give a false impression the plant was in compliance with its permit. That led to a record $2.3 million fine against Stericycle in 2014” a Salt Lake Tribune article writes. 

Thanks to intense public opposition, their permit to operate expired July 1st of this year. 

UPHE founder and board president, Dr. Brian Moench was quoted in the Tribune article “After years of town hall meetings, protest rallies, meetings with the governor and state officials, criminal investigations, and even a march led by Erin Brockovich, public health protection has finally won a hard-fought victory in North Salt Lake. Make no mistake, it was citizen activism that forced the state and the federal government to put enough pressure on Stericycle that shutting down their incinerator was their only viable option.”

UPHE’s executive director, Jonny Vasic, was also quoted in the article. “It only served to spread toxins throughout the community and even created new ones. Allowing Stericycle its original permit in 1989 was controversial at the time, but it became dramatically more so in the last 15 years.” As development in the area spread, the pollution coming from the facility became an increasingly pressing issue, with homes backing up to the facility. Residents describe black plumes coming from the facility when emissions-control devices failed, and studies show residents in the area have higher rates of multiple types of cancer, and higher rates of premature birth and low birth weight syndrome. They also found high concentrations of dioxins in the attics of homes in Foxboro, in some cases 17 times higher than what the EPA considers acceptable in an industrial zone.

Fox13 covered the press conference, and the long fought battle in a segment where you can see the outrage of community activists that made this closure possible. 

Watch our press conference here.

Watch Fox13’s segment here.

Read the Deseret’s coverage of the press conference here.

KSL’s coverage.

Read ABC4’s coverage.