NORTH SALT LAKE CITY -- A key investigator for environmentalist activist Erin Brockovich is asking city officials to enact simple measures to protect children from potentially hazardous waste from the Stericycle Medical Waste Incinerator.
Robert Bowcock of the Brokovich team asked local officials to implement a warning system for families living near the waste incinerator on days when the company is on bypass, burning potentially dangerous pollutants. He said there are five schools within 1 mile of the facility.
Brockovich's story about a fight with a California community was the subject of a 2000 movie, with Julia Roberts playing the lead role.
In comments made Tuesday evening as part of the public comment section of a North Salt Lake City Council meeting, Bowcock urged officials to modify the city's conditional-use permit for the company.
"All we'd like you to do is modify your
conditional-use permit and notify the school when they go on bypass, like a smog alert. When the incinerator is on bypass, that's the kind of local control you have," Bowcock said.
Bowcock said he and Brockovich will monitor the local situation until it is resolved.
"We know a medical waste incinerator in a neighborhood with children, where children are attending school, don't go hand in hand ... We will be participating with the community until we see this come to an end," Bowcock said.
Mayor Len Arave said he appreciated the feedback and described the requests as reasonable. He urged City Manager Barry Edwards to look at some sort of notification system.
Arave and other officials were on the defensive for part of the public comment period, as several residents urged the city to be proactive in helping to protect children.
Arave said city officials didn't know Stericycle would be a polluter when the waste incinerator company was originally given permission to build the facility. He also said there was full disclosure in the process of granting building permits near the facility. He said air quality is a concern for all residents of the community.
Councilman Matt Jensen told the Standard-Examiner that council members have not taken a position on the matter and said it would be inappropriate to do so until the company's issue with the state is resolved. Jensen, who lives near the facility, did praise the efforts of his neighbors to raise awareness and concerns about the pollutants emitted from the plant.
On May 28, the Utah Division of Air Quality issued a notice of violation and an order to comply for multiple violations of its Title V air-quality operating permit to the company. Violations included emissions exceeding the permit limits for dioxin, furon and nitrogen oxide, failure to report the emission exceedances, failure to maintain normal operating conditions during a stack test and failure to include test results demonstrating these emission exceedances in its semiannual monitoring reports.
The violations took place between December 2001 and April 2013, the division said.
The facility has been granted two extensions to comply. Originally the last deadline was Aug. 30, but a dispute over wording on potential penalties brought a new agreement Aug. 28, with a 30-day deadline for compliance.