Officials from Stericycle, a medical waste handler with an incinerator in North Salt Lake, say they are in the process of securing a property west of the Stansbury Mountains in Tooele County.
Though the company continues to look at other possibilities within the state, Selin Hoboy, vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs for Stericycle, Inc., said the most serious possibility for relocation is Tooele County.
Stericycle has operated a medical waste incinerator in North Salt Lake for the past two decades, but has recently come under fire in light of complaints that the plant had allegedly failed to comply with emissions regulations.
The Salt Lake plant is surrounded on two sides by homes, and Hoboy said the property west of the Stansbury Mountains was appealing to the company because future residential development in the area seemed unlikely.
The Salt Lake incinerator currently has about 55 employees, she said, but it is too early to determine which of those jobs might move to the Tooele area. In the event that Stericycle does move the plant, they could entertain the possibility of expansion — a possibility the company cannot explore at the incinerator’s present location, Hoboy said.
However, even if Stericycle purchases land in Tooele County, it could still be some time before the company could gain permission to actually move the plant, she added. State statute requires all solid waste facilities — be they landfills, recycling facilities or incinerators — to go through a three-part legislative and regulatory process to gain approval from the legislature, governor, and state Department of Environmental Quality.
Though Stericycle plans to introduce legislation related to the move during the current session, Hoboy said the company would not hear back on any action taken until March at the earliest. After gaining legislative approval, the company would have to apply for permits through the Department of Environmental Quality — a process that is known to take as long as six months, she added.
“It’s going to take as long as the process takes us,” Hoboy said. “We’re going to do what we can to expedite things on our end — but this is a process.”
Once all that is said and done, Stericycle will have to begin talks with the Tooele County Commission regarding impact fees.
“That will be something that will need to be worked out as we get closer to the conditional use process,” she said.
Tooele County Commissioner Shawn Milne, who has been involved in early negotiations with Stericycle officials, said that mitigation fees had come up as a possible sticking point.
“We do expect they will be unhappy about mitigation fees,” he said, “but we have reinforced fairly sternly that the potential negatives [of the incinerator] would be similar to other issues in the industry. I for one am not willing to back away from that.”
Milne added that, given the concerns in Salt Lake about Stericycle’s environmental responsibility, the county commission has begun more in-depth research into the company’s practices and policies regarding waste incineration.
“We have made it perfectly clear to them that that’s our expectation — we don’t want them to be a big polluter,” he said. “At this stage in the game, I’m feeling pretty good about what I’ve found. If this picks up steam, we will address it then.”
Though somewhat disappointed that Tooele County still struggles to attract cleaner, high-tech industries, Milne said he took Stericycle’s interest in the area as a positive development.
“It’s comforting to know that there are companies that are looking in our direction,” he said.