During the press conference one mother took to the podium and told a story about how her 6-year-old son went missing on Friday, the day Stericycle had their emergency bypass.
“Mom, I couldn’t make it home,” said her son. “There was a huge dust cloud and it was black and I couldn’t see and it burned my eyes and lungs. He said, ‘I would have died if I had to find home.’”
Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment say that little 6-year-old wasn’t exaggerating. They say even though the Stericycle facility is rather small, the amount of toxins it releases is equal to the volume one might see from a full-size coal power plant or oil refinery.
Dr. Brian Moench explained what toxins are being released from the North Salt Lake plant. “Heavy metals like lead and mercury, cadmium, arsenic and dioxins,” said Moench. “Dioxins may be the second most deadly man-made substance known after plutonium.”
15 years ago there were about 2,300 incinerators like Stericycle across the country, today there are only a couple dozen and Stericycle is believed to be the only one this side of the Mississippi.
“We’re having this waste shipped in from 8 states that surround us,” said Dr. Moench. “Their air is getting cleaner, while ours is getting dirtier.”
An email obtained by the Erin Brockovich’s legal team between two DAQ employees tells of one former Stericycle employee that read, “He said that (name of manager) complains to him that he is under a lot of pressure from his managers to feed more and more waste through the plant, and that the plant can’t handle what they want it to do.”
Dr. Moench said, “It’s proven by the events captured on video this Friday that this is a situation that’s out of control.”
The doctor says it’s not just neighbors who are breathing in Stericycle’s toxic emissions. Studies show people living miles away from an incinerator are at increased risk for serious diseases like cancer. Its one reason why the neighbor who videotaped the recent bypass event wanted it released to the public.
Aaron Wiley told ABC 4 Utah, “I had to record that this is actually happening. It’s not just, you know, neighbors complaining about random smells.”
Governor Herbert wasn’t able to meet with the media today, but his office released this statement: "We certainly share community concern over these emissions. Our agencies are pursuing penalties to the fullest extent of the law. With all the State and our partners are doing to improve air quality, it is distressing when one entity appears less committed to doing its part."