NORTH SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – Local environmental groups are celebrating a victory now that a medical waste incinerator in North Salt Lake belonging to Stericycle has been shut down. The group Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment has been leading the charge to stop the plant from burning medical waste in Utah. The company has come under fire in recent years for its incinerator in North Salt Lake, which has been blamed for causing health problems in the surrounding community.
As a result of their efforts, Stericycle will now take its medical waste to burn near Reno, Nevada. This is a win for the environment and for public health, as incinerating medical waste can release harmful toxins into the air. The groups who fought to shut down the Stericycle plant should be commended for their efforts to protect the community. Hopefully, this will set a precedent for other communities who are fighting against medical waste incineration.
Stericycle in Reno
As the CEO of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, Jonny Vasic is no stranger to the issue of medical waste incineration. So when he heard that the Reno County Commission had approved a new facility in his home state of Utah, he was quick to voice his concerns. “Now it won’t be operating for a couple more years, but incinerating medical waste there will be just as inappropriate as it was here,” said Vasic. Vasic has been a vocal opponent of medical waste incineration for many years, and he believes that the new facility in Reno County will only compound the problem. “There are better, safer ways to dispose of medical waste, and I hope that the Reno County Commission will reconsider their decision,” said Vasic. Only time will tell if the new facility in Reno County will be able to operate safely and efficiently, but Jonny Vasic will be watching closely.
Stericycle’s past fines
The reported move by Stericycle comes after nearly a decade of attempts from concerned citizens, community groups and even massive fines against the company to regulate its burning. In 2008, the state of Utah slapped Stericycle with a $2.5 million fine—at the time, the largest environmental fine in state history—following years of citizen complaints about noxious odors and increased rates of respiratory problems. The company was also ordered to spend $5 million on new scrubbers and monitoring equipment, and to pay for an independent review of its operations. At the time, then-Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said that Stericycle had “engaged in a pattern of deception and subterfuge” and that the company had “knowingly put the citizens of Utah at risk.”
In a statement sent to KSL.com, Stericycle says it is moving outside of Utah but did not confirm where. They also tell KSL.com that the North Salt Lake facility will still have some activity, despite the incinerator being closed. “Stericycle proudly remains part of the North Salt Lake Community,” Stericycle said.