A group of local residents concerned about Stericycle’s proposed relocation to Tooele County has taken to social media to organize and present a united front — a move they hope will give them a more audible voice in the legal process.
As of press time Tuesday, about 122 individuals have liked “Tooele County Citizens for Clean Air” on Facebook since Grantsville resident Jewel Punzalan Allen first created the page on Saturday. Facebook users “like” a webpage to indicate they want to receive continued updates regarding the page’s activity.
Tooele County residents have also posted dozens of messages and comments conveying information and concerns about Stericycle, the Illinios-based medical waste handler that has announced intentions to relocate its North Salt Lake incinerator to the Rowley area. Posted information includes the company’s progress through the legal process that would clear it for relocation.
The Facebook page has mobilized an effort to contact state legislators who are considering a joint resolution that would clear the first barrier to Stericycle’s relocation.
Locals who oppose the relocation have posted lists of house representatives’ email addresses, as well as drafts of letters to those representatives, and have encouraged others to discourage state legislators from supporting House Joint Resolution 6.
The resolution just cleared a House committee with unanimous support last Wednesday.
Allen said it was a Transcript-Bulletin article about that committee hearing, where a single woman from North Salt Lake had been the sole attendee who voiced opposition to the relocation, that ultimately inspired her to launch the Facebook page.
“I was struck by how silent our county residents were,” Allen said. “We don’t have proof that this is a good thing to push for, and we want to make sure that the citizens are not closed out of the process.”
Allen said she decided not to attend last Wednesday’s hearing because she had family and work obligations that seemed more pressing, and because she told herself someone else would attend the meeting and express similar views. However, she said that she has come to realize that Tooele residents’ lack of organization contributed to their evident silence.
Local residents have also taken to the Facebook page to vent their frustrations with local elected representatives, including the Tooele County Commissioners, who they say have downplayed residents’ concerns and greeted Stericycle with a “welcome mat.”
“I question why our county commissioners would welcome Stericycle with open arms without speaking to their constituents first,” said Rachel Hester in an email interview. “Why do they feel it is appropriate to represent our community’s attitude toward Stericycle without opening up a discussion about it with the community first?”
In the future, Allen said she and the page’s other users plan to use Facebook as a platform to organize groups to attend upcoming public hearings on the relocation. She also hopes to organize educational open-house events to disseminate information to the public about the legal process Stericycle must navigate over the next several months.
Editor’s note: Allen is a freelance correspondent for the Tooele Transcript-Bulletin. As the founder of a community advocacy group with concerns about the relocation of Stericycle to Tooele County, Allen has taken a leave of absence to avoid conflict of interest and protect the integrity of Transcript-Bulletin’s news coverage of Stericycle and related events. Her leave of absence begins after this edition.