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The Senate approved on Wednesday a bill intended to prevent future medical waste incinerators from being located within two miles of residential areas — hoping to avoid the kind of problems that have plagued Stericycle in North Salt Lake.

The Senate voted 26-1 to pass SB196 and sent it to the House.

"We are trying to prevent another Stericycle situation from being created in the future," said Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, the bill's sponsor.

The only controversy about the proposed bill arose in an earlier debate when some wanted the measure to go even farther to allow stiffer punishments for Stericycle for alleged violations that neighbors say have sickened them. "I am in favor of smacking Stericycle. I think they have been a very bad corporate citizen," said Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City.

Weiler said he is confident that the current enforcement system is sufficient and working. "I have every reason to believe that criminal charges will be filed against Stericycle, and I think it will be soon. So I am not convinced the system we have is broken."

State regulators have issued a citation to Stericycle, alleging the smoke coming from the company's stack has exceeded limits for dioxin, furan and nitrous oxides, which neighbors claim has sickened them. The plant also failed to report when it exceeded emissions and rigged a stack test, regulators say. Stericycle has denied the violations and taken legal steps to fight the citation.

Weiler said he initially introduced SB196 when Stericycle said it planned to move without naming a destination because he wanted to ensure any new plant would be far from residential areas. The company has since said it hopes to move to a remote spot in Tooele County.