SALT LAKE CITY -- Gov. Gary Herbert has directed a three-tiered study of the health effects of Stericycle and a review of any impact the waste incineration company may have had on the surrounding community.
On Thursday afternoon, the governor's office made public a letter Herbert sent to Charles Alutto, president and CEO of Stericycle in Lake Forest, Ill., where he emphasized the need for a health study to address concerns. Letters the governor wrote to Mayor Lyn Arave of North Salt City, where the facility is located, and Steven L. DeBry, chairman of the Salt Lake County Council, which formalized health concerns linked to the facility, were also released.
The study will:
* identify and address health effects of dioxins and furans released from the waste facility, including a literature review examining exposures to dioxins and furans at similar industrial sites;
* an analysis of any existing soil samples from the Stericycle site;
* an assessment of health effects in the area surrounding the plant, involving the collection and laboratory analysis of soil samples from areas most likely to be contaminated.
Herbert has also requested that a health consultation be certified by the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry as part of the review.
"As Governor of Utah, my primary concern is the health and safety of all Utah residents ... However, residents' growing concern, coupled with a formal request from the mayor of North Salt Lake City for a health study, have necessitated further investigation," Herbert wrote.
The state's Division of Air Quality served Stericycle with a notice of violation of existing standards for the company's air-quality permit for alleged violations between December 2011 and April this year. The company has disputed many of the claims, and the matter has been referred to an administrative law judge.
In the meantime, residents of neighborhoods around the NSL facility have organized and attempted to bring pressure on Herbert, city officials and others to address the future of the company in the community as well as health concerns. Discussion of the company potentially relocating has been a big part of that discussion.
Arave said the study will play a key role in looking at possible health issues associated with emissions from the company. He said some residents have raised health concerns related to the plant.
"What they're saying is serious enough, they should be investigated and not be ignored," Arave told the Standard-Examiner about the claims.
The company is within 2 miles of five schools, and neighbors have also reached out to environmental activist Erin Brockovich to help bring increasing pressure against the company.
Stericycle is currently being investigated at the federal level, in addition to the state level, but company officials say the company is currently operating in full compliance with state guidelines.
The Illinois company imports medical waste from eight neighboring states. Utah is one of the few states in the U.S. that still allows the burning of medical waste, and neighbors suggest new technology makes the need to burn medical waste unnecessary.
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, has said he will run legislation in the 2014 session dealing with the waste issue, including the possibility of pushing for a ban on medical waste incineration anywhere in the state.