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Stericycle to fight Utah air-quality violations

Published October 2, 2013 1:24 pm

Environment • Allegations include excessive emissions, lack of reporting and rigged test.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The corporate parent of a North Salt Lake medical-waste incinerator is formally contesting allegations by state regulators that it violated emissions standards.

Stericycle, Inc. is seeking an administrative law review of allegations that smoke coming from its stack has exceeded limits for dioxin, furan and nitrous oxides, that it failed to properly report these events and that it rigged a stack test.

After a few months of delays, lawyers for the Illinois-based firm filed a response with the Utah Division of Air Quality (DAQ) last week, saying the incinerator's emissions did not violate limits specified in its permit and the company satisfied reporting requirements.

Community and public health activists have called on Gov. Gary Herbert to shut down the plant, which is now surrounded by the Foxboro subdivision and close to several schools in this fast-growing part of southern Davis County. They say the plant poses an immediate threat to public health whether or not it is operated in compliance with its permits.

A call to Stericycle's office of corporate communications was not returned.

According to DAQ, Stericycle has demonstrated that it "returned" to compliance with its permit as of April 10, but the company can be fined as much as $10,000 for every day it was in violation.

The division has yet to establish a penalty and had been meeting with company officials weekly since August in an effort to reach a settlement.

Stericycle's lawyers attributed some of alleged violations to faulty lab analyses.

The charge that it rigged a stack test for nitrous-oxides emissions dates to December 2011, when Stericycle "deliberately operated the incinerator in a manner unrepresentative of normal operating conditions."

Documents allege Stericycle operations were typically not consistent with pollution-control practices specified in its operator training manual.

Stericycle responded that incinerator operation can vary depending on conditions. The manual "does not prescribe a specific operational method and recognizes there is variability and operators need flexibility to respond to variable conditions," lawyers wrote in their filing.

bmaffly@sltrib.com