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Stericycle can no longer burn medical waste in SLC, but the fight to stop toxic pollutants may not be over

Jul 6, 2022, 8:00 PM
Local environmental groups are taking a victory lap now that a medical waste incinerator in North S...
Local environmental groups are taking a victory lap now that a medical waste incinerator in North Salt Lake belonging to Stericycle, has been shut down. Photo credit: 📸 Lindsay Aerts, KSL NewsRadio.

NORTH SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH — Local environmental groups are taking a victory lap now that a medical waste incinerator in North Salt Lake belonging to Stericycle, has been shut down.

According to the group, Utah physicians for a Healthy Environment, who’s been at the forefront of stopping the plant from burning medical waste in Utah, Stericycle will now take its medical waste to burn near Reno, Nevada.

Stericycle in Reno

“Unfortunately their [Reno] County Commission approved that facility,” said Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment CEO Jonny Vasic. “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.”

During a press conference celebrating the shutdown Wednesday, Vasic said that community activists in Reno have reached out for help to stop the burning from coming to their area.

“We tried to provide as much help as we could to them to resist this,” Vasic said.

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.

“For 33 years, Stericycle poured out of their smokestack a witches brew of many of the most toxic substances known to science,” said Dr. Brian Moench, president of UPHE.

In 2014, the plant got a hefty fine from Utah’s Department of Environmental Quality for going over toxic emissions limits. Stericycle allegedly attempted to make it appear they were in compliance through rigged stack tests. In 2019 it was given three years to move to a remote part of Tooele County.

In a statement sent to KSL.com, Stericycle says it is moving outside of Utah but did not confirm where.

“As demand for medical waste management in the United States continues to increase, driven largely by growing health care needs, Stericycle has sought relocation to account for the infrastructure needed to expand our capacity,” the company said. “We look forward to continuing to help the health care industry address complex medical waste disposal challenges in a safe and responsible manner, both in the North Salt Lake Community and across all communities where we operate.”

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.

The company says the North Salt Lake City facility will be used as a collection and transportation facility, employing approximately 20 team members to service health care customers throughout the greater Salt Lake region.

“Approximately an additional 20 team members who worked at the North Salt Lake facility have been impacted, with half accepting alternate roles with Stericycle and half accepting severance packages. This change to our operations has been planned for several years.”

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Stericycle can no longer burn medical waste in SLC, but the fight to stop toxic pollutants may not be over