Medical waste incinerator agrees to pay $2.6M to resolve alleged clean air violations

Most of the money will go to replacing old school buses.

(Keith Johnson | Tribune file photo) This Jan. 21, 2014, file photo shows the Stericycle plant in North Salt Lake that incinerated hazardous medical waste and racked up multiple violations of clean air laws and regulations. It has now agreed to pay $2.6 million to resolve a case brought by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Medical waste processor Stericycle Inc. will pay $600,000 in penalties and another $2 million toward replacing old school buses under an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to resolve several violations arising from its controversial North Salt Lake incinerator.

Stericycle made Utah headlines in 2013 after state air quality regulators documented instances where the incinerator, located next to the Foxboro neighborhood, allegedly exceeded its emission limits and rigged stack tests in violation of its state permit. Ultimately, the Illinois-based firm was fined $2.3 million and agreed to relocate the North Salt Lake operation to a sparsely inhabited part of Tooele County.

Stericycle has since abandoned the move and is expected to close the incinerator in the next year or two.

In the meantime, the EPA went after Stericycle for alleged violations of federal law, resulting in a proposed consent decree entered Friday in U.S. District Court.

“Medical waste incinerators must operate in strict compliance with our nation’s clean air laws,” said Jean E. Williams, deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Stericycle has installed new pollution controls and made operational changes to remedy the violations alleged in the complaint.”

The $2 million the company has agreed to pay will help buy up to 20 new school buses to serve Davis County schools.

“This settlement will benefit all who live in and visit North Salt Lake,” said EPA Acting Regional Administrator Debra H. Thomas. “In addition to NOx reductions at the facility, the settlement requires Stericycle to replace old, high-emitting school buses for a local school district, providing cleaner air for school children and nearby neighborhoods.”

The decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.