BY MELINDA WILLIAMS
& LOUISE R. SHAW
Clipper Staff Writers
NORTH SALT LAKE – Below freezing temperatures and snow flurries didn’t stop about 30 people from attending a candlelight vigil, protesting the continued operation of the medical waste incinerator Stericycle.
The protest was held on Saturday afternoon in front of Stericycle, 90 N. 1100 West, in North Salt Lake.
Protestors shared stories of health problems, some they directly linked to the plant’s operation, others linked to the area’s poor air quality in general. All agreed that they want Stericycle’s doors to be shuttered and a cleaner alternative to disposing of medical waste in Utah found.
Among those attending was Tim McQueen, chief operating officer of Ozone Waste Solutions (OWS), a Greensboro, N.C company, who attended “to share solidarity,” with protesters, he said.
“We weren’t there to sell, but to show solidarity and to share that there is a no-burn, green, alternative to disposing of medical waste,” he said.
McQueen was accompanied by two representatives of Ozonators Industries, a company from Regina, Saskatchewan Canada that designs and manufactures the machine used by OWS.
OWS advertises itself as “a greener way,” to dispose of medical waste, that sterilizes medical waste without using toxic chemicals or producing any pollution. Instead, it uses the natural disinfecting power of Ozone, according to the company’s website.
“Ozone treatment produces no harmful by-products, no dirty air pollution, no nasty water contamination and no toxins to hide in the earth and infect our future,” the website said.
OWS is one of several companies that have shown interest in providing a green way to dispose of the waste currently being burned at Stericycle.
“We offer a green solution with zero emissions, McQueen said, adding the company is evaluating the possibility of locating an office in the area “to look at ways to help the situation,” McQueen said following the protest.
Stericycle is currently looking at options to move the facility, but members of Communities for Clean Air, a group made up mainly of residents of the nearby Foxboro subdivision in North Salt Lake have said they’d prefer to see the facility closed, rather than move it.
On Saturday, protesters cited a litany of health concerns.
Beth Brown told those gathered she’s had to deal with problems such as headaches and ringing in her ears, and that pain in her uterus made a hysterectomy necessary, problems she attributes to living in Stericycle’s proximity. “I want it closed, so we all can feel healthy,” she said.
Communities for Clean Air co-founder Alicia Connell said her family members are dealing with celiac disease, a digestive condition. She knows of a marathon runner who now has adult onset asthma, and she knows of children being kept in at recess from school because of poor air quality.
“I protest because of my kids,” she said, and because she’s been asked to help her community.
Singer-songwriter Melou Stewart Cline performed a song about it being time to close the plant, and about the need to get government to help in doing so.
Prior to the protest, Sarah Sargent said she moved to the area with her family, including a 5-year-old son with autism, about a year ago. She said at the time of the move, she thought the Stericycle facility was a post office.
“I fear what the future is going to be,” Sargent told protesters. “The only chance I have is to get him cleaner air.”