SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Citing growing community concern, Gov. Gary Herbert has ordered the state Department of Health to conduct a detailed study of a medical waste incinerator in North Salt Lake City.
Residents and anti-pollution activists have launched a campaign against the Stericycle facility, saying it routinely releases toxic smoke that puts public health at risk.
Utah regulators are scrutinizing the facility, but Herbert said the health study was needed after growing concern from residents and a request from North Salt Lake City Mayor Len Arave.
The governor’s reasoning and outline for the study were detailed in letters Hebert sent Thursday to Arave, the Salt Lake County Council and the head of Stericycle.
Herbert’s office publically released the letters Thursday afternoon.
Calls to Stericycle’s corporate office were not immediately returned Thursday.
The company has said it operates in full compliance with state permits and has improved efforts to monitor and control emissions.
The Stericycle facility, which sits adjacent to homes, burns about 7,000 tons of waste annually from Utah and other states. The waste includes plastic and glass laboratory equipment and human and animal tissue and fluids.
Stericycle has said its facility is completely safe and that concerned community members don’t understand the facts about how it works.
The state Department of Environment Quality has cited the company in the past for releasing cancer-causing dioxins and other pollutants.
In his letter to the County Council, Herbert writes that while there have been no documented instances of ongoing violations, the company will be held accountable for any past infractions.
According to the letters, the Health Department has been tasked with identifying potential health effects from chemicals emitted by the facility and study soil samples and the surrounding areas for contamination.