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After more than a year of negotiations with state environmental regulators, Stericycle Inc. has agreed to a $2.3 million fine to resolve allegations that its North Salt Lake medical waste incinerator violated emission limits and rigged a stack test so it would suggest emissions were less than they really were.

The Division of Air Quality would waive half the record-setting fine if the Illinois-based waste processor relocates its Utah operations to a remote Tooele County location. Once Stericycle managers get state permits for the new plant, the incinerator has three years to move.

The division is asking the Air Quality Board, which meets Wednesday, to sign off on the settlement. The agreement constitutes no admission of wrongdoing on Stericycle's part.

"It's a strong settlement, not only the dollar amount, but they are committing to move out of North Salt Lake," said DAQ director Bryce Bird. "Even if there is not a new facility, they will agree to shut down on a certain date."

Clean air advocates agree a fine is appropriate, but are more concerned about what they called an "open-ended" time frame for the company to clear out of North Salt Lake.

"I would have hoped for better progress. We just added three years," said Alicia Connell, an anti-incinerator activist who bought a home in the Foxboro subdivision. "I feel like it's getting dragged out. However, something is better than nothing as we continue to try to make things better. If approving it means we will have a time frame then, yes, there is a positive in that."

Connell's group Communities for Clean Air is one of many that have lobbied Gov. Gary Herbert to shut down the Stericycle plant sooner rather than later.

"Finally the state is taking action against this organization that has established a clear record of violating their permitting protocols," said Tim Wagner, director of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.

Still, Wagner added, the state could do more.

"The bigger issue is there needs to be a finer hard line in terms of when this company is gone," he said. "They should have no more than three years from when the fine is levied. That permitting process could take two to three years. That just adds to the wounds incurred by the people of North Salt Lake and Foxboro.

"They may be in compliance with their permit, but their facility is still putting out 9.5 tons of [hazardous air pollutants] in the midst of a residential area."

State air quality regulators first discovered emission problems in December 2011. Excess emissions persisted for another 13 months before the notice of violation was issued in May 2013, according to Bird. The notice accused the company of exceeding its limits for nitrogen oxides, furans and dioxin and failing to report the exceedances. It also said the company failed to maintain normal operating conditions during a stack test, as required by its permit.

"We worked on fixing the problem first," Bird said.

That meant getting the company to design and install better NOx-control equipment.

Stericycle contested the allegations and has been pursuing an administrative appeal of the state's findings. The settlement would put an end to that appeal.

The incinerator's owners also pledged to move operations to Tooele County and upgrade the North Salt Lake plant in the meantime. The company installed a backup generator to reduce the occasions when the incinerator releases smoke directly into the air, events that were particularly upsetting to residents of the new subdivision built right up to the plant's fence.

In a deal brokered by the governor's office, Stericycle this year secured a 40-acre parcel of school trust lands on the western shore of the Great Salt Lake near Rowley for its new incinerator in an area far from any residences.

The settlement would give Stericycle 90 days to submit an application to DAQ to build the new plant. The company also would need to secure a conditional use permit from Tooele County and an operating permit under Title V of the federal Clean Air Act. Within 60 days of obtaining necessary permits, Stericyle would have to submit a construction schedule along with 90-day progress reports.

"DAQ stepped up and went the full extent of the law. I appreciate that. They have done everything they can legitimately do in this situation," Connell said. "We need to make sure the best possible technology is used at the new facility. It has to be perfect now because we can't change it later. It's still in our airshed, it's still a problem. "