Stericycle is ready to move toward obtaining permits to operate a medical waste incinerator in Tooele County after this week’s senate vote finalized legislative approval of the move.
The Utah State Senate passed a resolution approving the relocation of Stericycle’s North Salt Lake incinerator to a proposed site near Rowley with a final vote of 27-1 with one senator abstaining. Sen. Jim Dabakis (D-Salt Lake) opposed the resolution. Senate majority leader Ralph Okerlund was absent from the vote after collapsing during an earlier session.
Stericycle’s North Salt Lake incinerator came under fire last fall for an emissions violation that the company says was the result of a series of four mechanical failures. An investigation into the violation is ongoing, and the relocation remains hotly contested.
Clean air activists from the Salt Lake area continue in their vocal opposition of the relocation, and Jennifer Koenig, vice president of corporate communications for Stericycle, said that the company’s competitors have also begun lobbying against the relocation as well.
Locally, opposition to the move has softened somewhat. Jewel Allen, a Grantsville resident and the founder of a Facebook page formerly titled Tooele County Citizens for Clean Air, took advantage of a public forum period during the senate’s committee hearing to recant her own opposition to the legislative resolution that would clear the first part of a path for the relocation.
“I think we all agree that Stericycle has a major public perception problem to overcome,” Allen said during the hearing. “But I also recognize that they deserve a fair shake like any other legitimate business.”
Allen continued to add that she wanted to “dispel the notion that [Tooele County residents] care more about economic development than the environment.”
“They are both very important to us,” she said. “We respectfully request that, in the future, our State’s elected leaders take this into account before crafting legislation that impacts our county.”
With the newly-granted legislative approval, Stericycle can now move forward with the rest of the relocation process. Stericycle has already agreed to buy 40 acres of state trust lands near Rowley, although the exact parcel the company will purchase has yet to be determined pending an archeological study of the available sites, and has put a down payment on the property.
However, the company must still obtain permission to relocate from the state Department of Environmental Quality, the governor’s office and from Tooele County officials.
Koenig said the company plans to focus next on obtaining a conditional use permit from Tooele County. The conditional use process will require Stericycle to demonstrate that the potential negative impacts of the relocation can be mitigated.
Additionally, Stericycle will have to provide county officials with site plans and will undergo a series of public hearings. At the same time, the county will have to broach the topic of mitigation fees during the permitting process.
Koenig estimated that the company would have the necessary documentation ready for submission to Tooele County by the end of the summer. Meanwhile, company representatives plan to make themselves available for public open house-style meetings across the county.