Our View: No more excuses, Stericycle

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 1:32 PM

Editorial Board, Standard-Examiner

If Stericycle can’t get its act together, the medical waste incinerator should be shut down by Utah’s Division of Air Quality.

Opponents are calling for Gov. Gary Herbert to pull Stericycle’s permit in order to shut it down, but the governor should defer to state officials responsible for monitoring the facility.

Stericycle’s incinerator, which is located within two miles of five elementary schools, is already dealing with violations of its emissions permit. According to a spokesperson for Gov. Herbert, state agencies are backing penalties to the fullest extent of the law. The facilty’s problems have attracted national attention, with the Huffington Post doing a story. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/12/utah-medical-waste-incinerator-stericycle-pollution_n_3909083.html)

But will those penalties include shutting down the facility? Many parents who participated in a south Davis County protest hope so. They claim that the facility is releasing emissions into the air more often it claims it does. The discharge is described as “dust” and “thick smog,” with a strong smell and “little pieces of ash floating in the air.” Another resident said the discharge “stung her son’s eyes.”

According to the state’s DAQ, there have been violations between December 2001 and April 2013. The latest action, dated Aug. 28, gives Stericycle 30 days to comply with the state’s order. If it does not, its permit will likely be revoked by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, which oversees the DAQ.

As mentioned, the appropriate manner to handle Stericycle is through state regulators, and not by an edict from the governor. It’s possible that the Legislature may get involved. State Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, may craft a bill that bans burning medical waste in Utah. Rep. Becky Edwards, R-North Salt lake, who attended last week’s protest, also believes legislation may be an answer.

In the meantime, Stericycle has a deadline for correcting its violations. If they fail to meet the deadline, it would be appropriate to have Utah officials close the facility.

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