BY REBECCA PALMER
NORTH SALT LAKE — After months of protests, public meetings and social media campaigns, Communities for Clean Air will have its biggest event yet on Saturday afternoon.
The group will host internationally recognized environmental activist Erin Brokovich at Foxboro Elementary, 587 North Foxboro Drive.
Brokovich and her research team got involved with the group and its movement to shut down medical waste incinerator Stericycle this summer. In a video interview with EnviroNewsTV, Brokovich said she was particularly anxious to get involved after seeing home videos of smoke plumes coming from the Stericycle plant.
“Doing that on top of children and a school almost sickened me,” she said. “I just felt very compelled as a mother and as a human being Й to do what I could to get involved, to maybe help their voice.”
The plant was built before homes around it were, but the incinerator is now within a few hundred feet of dozens of homes, and several schools are located within one square mile.
Communities for Clean Air was spurred to action after the Utah Department of Air Quality sent Stericycle a Notice of Violation for allegedly emitting more toxic air than its permit allowed and for falsifying records.
Now, Communities for Clean Air wants Stericycle shut down, and has gained the support of groups such as Utah Moms for Clean Air, the Sierra Club and Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. Stericycle plants in several other states have been closed because, in some cases, state laws were changed to forbid the burning of medical waste.
In Utah, the statewide media have taken notice, as have environmentalists around the country.
During her interview with EnviroNewsTV, Brokovich brought up one of the types of medical waste allegedly destroyed at the Stericycle incinerator.
“There was an article that really disturbed me about the burning in medical waste facilities of aborted fetuses and doing that on top of children in school,” she said.
Stericycle did not return calls about the allegation, but Scott Anderson, Director of the Utah Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste, said it is “very unlikely” that Stericycle is burning aborted fetuses.
His department oversees so-called “red bag waste” in Utah.
“They in and of themselves, by virtue of their own policy, don’t take those kinds of materials,” Anderson said. “They have made a conscious decision not to take fetuses or human remains that are complete, meaning torsos and heads, limbs, that kind of thing.”
Stericycle sends its own stafffers to train new medical clients on the kinds of waste it can pick up, Anderson said, and operators at the plant are also trained in the policy.
“I would be very cautious before I believe that,” he said of the abortion rumors.
The Communities for Clean Air event will be in town hall style, so there will be room for questions and answers. It starts at 2 p.m. Then, the group will march to the Stericycle plant at 90 N. 1100 West and hold a protest, said organizer Alicia Connell.