We thought it was a done deal, especially with the governor and Legislature pushing for it so hard, and even with a cash incentive — at the expense of Tooele County’s honor — to make sure it happened quickly and without fail.
But then, a lot of time had passed since we last heard a word about Stericycle.
As reported in last Tuesday’s edition, the medical waste incinerator company based in Lake Forest, Illinois, has announced it won’t relocate its North Salt Lake facility to a remote 40-acre site about 20 miles northwest of Grantsville near U.S. Magnesium at Rowley. Instead, it will leave the state.
A company official said, “it became clear that it was not financially or strategically feasible to build” the proposed $15 million incinerator there because of the lack of affordable water. The official said Stericycle faced drilling a well and installing an expensive treatment system to treat brackish water, or pipe or truck in water from a long distance.
The new facility was projected by the company to have around 30 employees, and feature two incinerators capable of processing up to 18,000 tons of medical waste per year with stack emissions less than federal standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Stericycle’s announcement comes somewhat as a surprise, especially with limited potable water being blamed for the decision. The Stericycle official who confirmed the announcement said in July 2014 the new facility’s water needs were not large and the company was confident it could find water available for use.
But the surprise, we have to say, is a welcome one, because we feel Tooele County will be better off without Stericycle. Here’s why.
If you’ve followed our coverage of Stericycle’s desire to move to Tooele County since 2013, you’ll probably remember this: In 2014, the Division of Air Quality fined Stericycle $2.3 million for air quality permit violations that occurred at the company’s North Salt Lake facility between 2011 and 2013. But in a settlement agreement with Stericycle, the state offered the company half-off the fine if it relocated to Tooele County within three years of obtaining all state and local permits.
In December 2014, we published an editorial noting it is understood negotiation often comes into play when permitting agencies levy fines against companies that violate environmental laws. But the Utah Department of Air Quality’s offer to cut the penalty in half if Stericycle makes a quick exit to Tooele County “is an egregious and reckless incentive that exceeds the penalty and compliance intent of such fines.”
The editorial also said the half off deal “is a slap in Tooele County’s face, and may impede the county’s future economic development efforts. Who wants to build a new business or company in a county where the state is willing to let go of $1 million to get a medical waste handler to move there?”
We don’t like to see business and industry that wants to relocate or expand to Tooele County drop its plans and go elsewhere. But because Stericycle was literally being forced down the county’s throat by the state, the company’s welcome wore off long ago.
Another point of concern was this: Because of the 50 percent off deal, could the DAQ be trusted to serve as a credible regulatory oversight agency over Stericycle’s operating permits to protect Tooele County citizens?
Thankfully, now, that question won’t need to be further explored.