Mayor Len Arave told ABC 4 Utah Reporter Cristina Rendon he met with Stericycle employees after a city council meeting last week. The discussions involved talking about possibly moving Stericycle to another location.
“I don’t think anybody is happy where Stericycle is right now,” Arave said. “The residents aren't happy. The city isn't happy. Stericycle isn't happy with that location.”
Stericycle burns medical waste that has been shipped in from eight other states. During an emergency it releases emissions in what is known as a bypass event. The latest bypass happened Sept. 7.
Aaron Wiley captured the event on video and was concerned about what was being released into the air.
“At the time there was a marathon going on where there were hundreds of families walking around,” Wiley said.
Another resident in the Foxboro community, Natasha Hincks-Henderson, watched the smoke and said the smell was awful.
“The wind was just taking it everywhere,” she said. “This is pure toxins going into the air.”
Arave said Stericycle employees are willing to notify schools and residents of a bypass event in the future. If they do not voluntarily do so, Arave said the city council will draft and pass an ordinance requiring any company to comply with a notification process.
“I don’t know that we’re trying to force them out of the city, but there are probably better locations for them and they seem to be open to that,” he said.
Arave said it is too soon to know if and when Stericycle would move or where. He did not name any other cities, but said the incinerator would not be anywhere in North Salt Lake.
Arave added that Stericycle employees approximately 50 people and he does not want to put anyone out of job. He also said Stericycle provides a necessary service of burning medical waste.
The real resolution might lie in the state legislature. Senator Todd Weiler, (R) Dist. 23, is drafting a bill to ban incinerators across the State of Utah. He came to the conclusion after weighing the needs of Stericycle versus the health and concerns of residents.
“Stericycle was here first,” Weiler said. “They’ve been here for two decades and these homes have been built around them, but I have to deal with the reality that we have five school now and thousands of people and we have a business that’s polluting the air we breathe.”
Weiler said there is another incinerator in Utah called CleanHarbors that would be subject to the ban if his bill passes during the 2014 Legislative Session. The facility is located in Aragonite in Tooele County.
To avoid any backlash, Weiler said he would also look at the possibility of amending the bill to ban incinerators within a 25-mile radius of a residential area.
“I would love to see them voluntarily move,” Weiler said. “If they decide not to I think the state ought to look at whether we want eight other states to ship in their medical waste for us to breathe because that’s what’s happening.”
Alicia Connell with Communities for Clean Air said she is not sure moving Stericycle to a different location is the answer.
“At the end of the day we don’t want to pass along our problem,” she said. “We want to find another way.”
Arave said Stericycle told the city they are working on mathematical models to send in that can track what it actually being released in the air during a bypass event.
“We really need to understand those bypass events a little bit better,” Arave added. “I think that’s where most people’s concern is.”