NORTH SALT LAKE - Some medical waste such as that from chemotherapy and pathological waste cannot be sterilized; it still must be incinerated, representatives of Stericycle said.
Autoclaving, or sterilizing such waste “could lead to unintended consequences," Selin Hoboy, vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs for Stericycle told the Clipper last week.
Hoboy and Jennifer Koenig, vice president of corporate communications for the company were in the area to discuss their proposed move and clarify misconceptions about Stericycle.
Stericycle has come under fire for its operation that environmentalists say is harming the health of North Salt Lake residents living in close proximity in the Foxboro subdivision.
On Thursday, environmentalists protested in front of Gov. Gary Herbert’s office, taking exception to a study released Tuesday by the Utah State Health Department that said there’s no increased cancer risk due to the medical waste incinerated at Stericycle (see related story).
Then on Friday a Utah State Senate panel killed a bill that would have banned medical waste incineration within five miles of homes.
On Wednesday, Koenig said that only 10 to 15 percent of the medical waste picked up by Stericycle is incinerated.
“The majority goes to an alternate facility,” she said.
"While technology has advanced, alternate solutions still must be proved reliable, cost effective and environmentally sound,” Koenig said.
The company is proposing a move to a a remote area in Tooele County.
“We’re looking at 40 acres on Rowley Road on the SITLA (Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration) property,” Hoboy said.
The site hasn’t been finalized because the geological and archeological surveys haven’t been completed and their results may mean shifting the sites a little, she said.
Tooele residents were a part of Thursday’s protest, “but we think it’s a win-win-win for everyone,” Hoboy said.
She said the company realizes the current facility is “now not in the best location,” adding that Stericycle is facilitating the move as fast as it can.
Before finalizing the move, Stericycle must get state legislative approval and then apply for permits from the state Division of Air Quality. If the company receives the go-ahead from the state, it then must apply for a conditional use permit from Tooele County.
In the meantime, Stericycle is upgrading its North Salt Lake facility, installing some $1.5 million worth of new equipment, Hoboy said, lowering emissions at the plant. The improvements will include a newer generator which means fewer bypass events in which emissions are released into the air, she said.
Currently, the plant has bypass events about six times a year, but that is less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the operation, Hoboy said.
The company is making a concerted effort to reach out to the community and local leaders more, Koenig said, to explain what they do and the environmental impact they have.
They have contacted 40 states to see how many ban medical waste incineration.
They found that of the 40 contacted, only six ban medical waste incinerators or have a moratorium on their construction, Koenig said. Utah is one of the states with a moratorium, she added.
The company originally located here in 1989 because it was becoming renowned for cancer research and treatment, Koenig said.