WOODS CROSS -- Unable to reconcile some problems he sees with the operation of a medical waste facility in his district, including the possibility of burning aborted fetuses, Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, says he plans to run legislation to address the ongoing pollution problems associated with Stericycle in the next session.
He said his legislative options to address the medical waste facility in North Salt Lake include pushing for a ban on the burning of medical waste in the state of Utah.
Stericycle has been cited by the state for violation of its air-quality operating permit. 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 company faces a Sept. 28 deadline to address the issues or be fined.
A ban on burning medical waste is already in place in 39 other states, and Weiler said addressing the problem with a statewide ban is under consideration. He said new technology eliminates the need to burn medical waste in an incinerator, as the local plant does. He said he is also considering a partial ban, which would prohibit the company from burning on "red air days."
The Woods Cross Republican said one of the appealing features of an all-out ban is that it would stop the import of medical waste to Utah from other states.
Stericycle is within a mile of five schools and is now in a neighborhood setting, even though the facility was in place before developments were built. Neighbors have initiated protests about emissions from the plant.
Weiler said emissions from the plant are a bigger problem than just in the immediate vicinity of the plant. He said the problem with the waste-burning facility extends beyond his district to have an impact on all residents in Davis County.
In meeting with company officials, he said, he ran into two issues he has been unable to reconcile. The first is that medical waste that comes in sealed containers to the facility is never checked for its contents. He asked if waste from Planned Parenthood possibly included aborted fetuses and company officials were unable to definitively say no.
His second major concern is the company has admitted to using a bypass valve to burn some waste at random times. He said company officials admit they don't know the contaminants that may be associated with releasing steam and smoke via the bypass valve. Company officials said the bypass option has been used as many as six times a year. Neighbors put the number of times it has been used at a higher figure.
Erin Brockovich investigator Robert Bowcock told city officials on Tuesday that the bypass option has been used as many as two or three times a week.
"They don't know what they are releasing," Weiler said.
Stericycle officials have admitted they are allowed to accept and burn prions from human and animal tissue. Prions are proteins linked to Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease in humans. Better known as mad cow disease, the disease is a 100 percent-fatal brain disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
Bountiful physician Tyler Yeates, who is associated with Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, told town hall participants in June that even if the company were operating in full compliance with its state permit, the health risks for the community are undeniable. He said much of the particulate matter from the waste facility falls in the category of ultrafine, which is too small to be captured by filters but is most likely to penetrate the lungs and penetrate the cells of the body. He said the incinerator generates as many hazardous air pollutants -- or HAPs -- as a full-sized refinery.
Weiler said he has attempted to disprove Yeates assessment in addressing the emissions from Stericyle and then ran into some new concerns in the process.