Sarah Sargent sent an email on behalf of Communities for Clean Air to Erin Brockovich’s team and received a response immediately.
“I want that incinerator shut down,” Sargent said.
Bob Bowcock, an environmental investigator with Brockovich’s team, came to North Salt Lake to investigate and said he found layers of questionable practices that made him take on the case.
“What struck us particularly of interest in this case is that a medical waste incinerator would be allowed to literally be in someone’s back yard,” Bowcock said.
Stericycle, the medical waste incinerator, sits next to dozens of homes and a handful of schools. When the company opens a bypass it is similar to a chimney shoot sending toxic emissions into the air.
In May 2013, Utah’s Division of Air Quality found Stericycle was violating rules by exceeding their emissions limits. A spokesperson for the state said the issued a revised notice of violation to Stericycle before the end of August 2013 which would enforce a harsher penalty and possibly require the company to install equipment that would prevent another violation of emissions limits.
Since the May 2013 violation was issued, the company has since come into compliance for their acceptable emissions limits.
“I do not trust them and them coming into compliance isn’t good enough for me,” Sargent said.
But Bowcock said he found out Stericycle is cramming so much garbage through the incinerator the bypass is opening more than it should.
“[Stericycle] told us the bypass was open once or twice a year, but we’re finding it’s more like 15 to 20 times a month,” he said.
Bowcock asked North Salt Lake City Council members to require Stericycle to notify schools in the surrounding areas to be notified of when the bypass would be open so students can stay indoors.
Mayor Len Arave said there is not much the city can do while the state investigates.
“We are concerned, but we’re not in a position to really pursue anything,” Arave said.
Arave has a history with Stericycle and the neighboring communities. Arave confirmed he was the Chief Financial Officer for Woodside Homes, the developmental company responsible for the Foxboro subdivision, at the same time he was on the planning commission for the City of North Salt Lake.
Arave said because of the conflict of interest he did not participate in any talks about negotiations before the subdivision near Stericycle was built.
The residents said they were not made aware of any disclosures about Stericycle before buying homes in the area.
They said the issue of air quality affects the entire state and they are glad to have Bowcock on their side.
“It makes our fight a little easier,” Alicia Connell said.
A rally will be held Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Sweet Library in the Avenues of Salt Lake City.