SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake County Council will ask Utah Gov. Gary Herbert to determine whether the state — under executive powers — can order the closure of Stericycle, a medical waste incinerator in North Salt Lake.
The council voted unanimously Tuesday to send a letter to the governor amid growing concern that the plant’s emissions have exceeded the limits of its state and federal permits. The state Division of Air Quality has issued a notice of violation to the company, but the administrative process is ongoing.
The council added its voice to those of air quality advocates and concerned residents who have repeatedly urged state and city officials to take steps to shut down the plant.
The draft letter asks Herbert to explore the circumstances and determine whether he and the executive director of the Department of Environmental Quality can “order entities to discontinue the emission of air contaminants in the interest of public health."
Council members said they feel the need to act, even though the incinerator is in neighboring Davis County. “We cannot sit back and watch as Stericycle appears to ignore our air quality laws. Emissions from this incinerator can travel hundreds of miles, and, at a minimum, the residents of Salt Lake County are significantly affected by the emissions from Stericycle,” the draft letter states.
The council planned further refinements to the letter before its final adoption Tuesday afternoon.
The issue was brought before the council by Democratic council members Sam Granato and Arlyn Bradshaw.
“While we understand that it is unusual for a county to request action in another county’s jurisdiction, due to the public health implications for our residents, we feel compelled to ask for your help,” the draft states.
“Even though the facility is in Davis County, it doesn’t take much of a wind shift for it to become a Salt Lake County problem,” Bradshaw told the council.
As the only medical waste incinerator in the West, Stericycle's clients include hospitals, mortuaries, veterinary clinics, ambulance companies, dialysis centers and tattoo parlors. Granato said eight states ship medical waste to the facility.
State regulators say the company has demonstrated a pattern of irregularities with its operation over several years. Discrepancies in the company's logs suggest that regulators were misled and information was manipulated that was not reflective of normal operating conditions, according to the division.
The alleged altering of records has been turned over to federal authorities for a criminal investigation.