This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
State regulators are investigating a medical waste incinerator after an anonymous former employee charged that it burned so much waste and such toxic materials in recent years that it violated state law.
Stericycle, which operates the North Salt Lake facility, also is looking into the claims after an online video appeared on the website EnviroNews, said Jennifer Koenig, vice president of corporate communications. But the company's procedures forbid such violations, so it's unlikely they occured, Koenig said Wednesday.
"We just do not think this is feasible," she said.
Communities for Clean Air staged a news conference Wednesday outside Gov. Gary Herbert's Capitol Hill suite demanding the governor shut the plant down with an executive order.
No one brought the former employee's claims to the Department of Environmental Quality to investigate and document, said spokeswoman Donna Kemp Spangler. But she said the department is looking into the allegations anyway.
In a videotaped interview, parts of which are included in a documentary titled "The Devil's Work," a man wearing a bandana and sunglasses over his face says he is a former worker at the medical incinerator and alleges that supervisors told him and other employees to forgo measuring the weight and radioactivity of much of the waste coming into the plant, especially types believed to be radioactive.
Not measuring the waste items would violate Stericycle's state permits.
The company is required to log how much infectious waste it processes and cannot process radioactive waste, according to its permit, Koenig said. However, some materials it burns contain traces of radioactivity, and the facility uses machines to measure those levels.
The former worker claimed employees ignore those rules and a host of others. He declined to be named or interviewed, citing fears for his former co-workers still at Stericycle.
It's the latest flashpoint for the much-debated incinerator. Advocates at the Capitol Wednesday spoke against the operation and said medical waste should be shredded and sent to the landfill, not burned.
They want the governor to shut the plant down immediately.
"We're kind of beside ourselves," said Brian Moench of Utah Physicians For a Healthy Environment.
The company drew criticism in recent years after YouTube videos showed smoke billowing from a stack on the facility.
Stericycle officers, for their part, maintain they have reported the plumes to regulators and are complying with state rules.
In March, state lawmakers gave their approval for the facility to move to school trust lands in remote Tooele County. Stericycle has cleared the first round of permitting for such a move, Koenig said.
Legislators also created a law barring developers from building homes within two miles of a medical waste-burning operation.
For North Salt Lake, it could be years before a possible move. Meanwhile, the DEQ investigation is expected to take about a month.
Even though no one brought the allegations to hazardous waste inspectors, "We're definitely going to look into it," said Spangler, the DEQ spokeswoman. "We're going to take it seriously."