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Angry residents plan rally after video of Stericycle pollution surfaces

By Andrew Wittenberg | Posted - Sep 9th, 2013 @ 10:10pm

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NORTH SALT LAKE — Neighbors in North Salt Lake say it's tough to breathe when a local medical waste facility burns material and sends harmful chemicals into the air.

They're prepping for a rally at the State Capitol this week as new video is causing real concern.

The Utah Division of Air Quality is investigating while neighbors say they are still concerned about the quality of the air they breathe.

North Salt Lake resident Natasha Hincks-Henderson was there.

"It was a thick sheet of smoke," Hincks-Henderson said, describing what she saw last Friday night.

For five minutes on Friday night, a heavy cloud of black smoke poured into the atmosphere from Stericycle, a medical waste management company. Neighbors took pictures and video.

"They had a bypass event," said Rusty Ruby, compliance manager for the Utah Division of Air Quality.

A bypass event is when emissions are released to protect equipment inside the facility.

It got to more people, more people started watching the video, and people started going, 'Oh my gosh, these guys aren't crazy. Something really bad is going on.'

–Alicia Connell, a North Salt Lake resident

"Normal probably isn't the right word," Ruby said. "It's allowed. It's a safety latch designed into the incineration process."

Ruby says the process is not necessarily against air quality regulations, however, the most recent event is still being investigated.

"It may have been completely operating in compliance with the permit and it may have had a valve function, so it operated as designed," Ruby said.

A growing collection of residents who live nearby are getting on board with the 'months long' effort by other residents to shut Stericycle down.

"It got to more people, more people started watching the video, and people started going, 'Oh my gosh, these guys aren't crazy. Something really bad is going on,'" said Alicia Connell, a North Salt Lake resident.

The Division of Air Quality is still in negotiation with Stericycle following a notice of violation earlier this year. The state accused them of putting too many pollutants in the air and falsifying records.


The two sides could settle or Stericycle could fight the allegation. But one thing is clear — neighbors are concerned and want answers.

"We know that they were there first, but it doesn't give them the right to go way over the toxin levels that they are supposed to and be falsifying records," Hincks-Henderson said.

This rally is ahead of a planned news conference Wednesday at the Capitol, where residents hope to get the attention of the Governor.

Meanwhile, the Division of Air Quality will look into the recent bypass event but Stericycle may well have been within compliance.

Stericycle did not return calls for comment.


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