SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A medical waste burning facility cited for toxic emissions has agreed to pay Utah a $2.3 million fine and move its facility to a more rural area, state officials announced Monday.
Stericycle would only pay half of the fine if it moves its plant from North Salt Lake City to Tooele County as planned. It must move within three years of getting necessary permits.
The agreement must be approved by the state air quality board to become final.
The settlement resolves a case opened after state officials found Stericycle exceeded emissions limits over 13 months in 2011-2012, said Bryce Bird, director of the state’s division of air quality.
The fine, the largest ever given out by the division, sends a stern message to other companies that they will pay for violations, Bird said.
Phone and email messages left with Illinois-based Stericycle Inc. were not returned.
The Utah attorney general’s office is still investigating at the request of Gov. Gary Herbert following accusations about the handling of other material.
The Stericycle incinerator processes about 7,000 tons of medical waste each year, according to the Utah Division of Air Quality. The waste includes pharmaceuticals, laboratory tools made of plastic and glass, and human tissue and fluid.
Stericycle plans to build a new facility about 45 miles west of North Salt Lake City in rural Tooele County. Its current facility is located near a residential area. This new location is an industrial area and away from neighborhoods.
The new facility will likely cost tens of millions and be built with much higher emission standards, Bird said.
Alicia Connell, co-founder of Communities for Clean Air, applauded the state division of air quality for imposing the stiffest fine possible and imposing a timeline on the move. She said the new facility will be an improvement but won’t get rid of the problem. Her group would prefer the facility is completely shut down and not allowed to operate anywhere.
“I’m not thrilled with the idea that nobody can watch and see what’s going on,” Connell said. “And it’s still in our air shed.”
Stericycle officials tried to ease worries at a meeting in Tooele in May, saying the plant would be 20 miles from any homes and that a stricter set of incoming emissions standards should quell health concerns.