Though the Utah State Senate is poised to vote on a resolution that would permit Stericycle’s relocation to proceed through the legal process, the company already has a quiet presence in Tooele County.
Stericycle is a patron of current Tooele County businesses, sending its fly ash, a byproduct of the industrial scrubbers that clean up emissions from Stericycle’s North Salt Lake plant, to a hazardous waste landfill at Clean Harbor’s Grassy Mountain site.
Additionally, the company, an Illinois-based medical waste handler, serves about 25 Tooele Valley-based clients, according to Stericycle, including Tooele County government.
Public budget records show that Tooele County spent almost $3,000 on Stericycle’s services in 2013, mostly sending potentially contaminated waste from the county health department for sterilization.
Tooele County Commissioner Shawn Milne said that he was unaware of the county’s patronage of Stericycle, but added that these kinds of day-to-day administrative decisions often fall to county employees.
“I don’t necessarily know where all county departments have their tires changed,” he said.
Additionally, Mountain West Medical Center has also confirmed that they have a contract with Stericycle for waste management. Becky Trigg, director of Marketing for Mountain West, said she was unable to comment on the contract, but did say that the agreement between the hospital and Stericycle was a typical business transaction in the medical field and one that would likely continue so long as Stericycle complied with federal requirements for the proper disposal of medical waste.
She added that Mountain West was among several other medical institutions in the valley that also work with Stericycle or similar companies.
Though hospitals are by far the most obvious customer for a medical waste handler, Jennifer Koenig, vice president of corporate communications for Stericycle, said the company serves a variety of clients, including veterinarians, dentists, community doctors and even schools and airports — anywhere that produces waste that might be contaminated by pathogens.
However, she stressed that the company does not incinerate all the waste it receives. Most of the waste produced in a small community like Tooele Valley is likely shipped out for sanitation at autoclave facilities outside Utah, she said.
Only certain kinds of waste — a very small percentage of what Stericycle accepts — actually need to be incinerated. Pathological waste, trace chemo therapy, and other such waste streams must be incinerated to be properly sterilized and rendered harmless, Koenig explained.
Stericycle’s North Salt Lake incinerator came under fire last fall for 2013 emissions violation that the company says was the result of a series of four mechanical failures. An investigation into the violation is ongoing.
A resolution that would clear the path for Stericycle to relocate its Utah-based incineration facilities to the Rowley area is currently awaiting legislative approval. The state house passed the resolution 73-0 last Monday, and the measure continued through a committee hearing in the senate on Friday with five votes in favor, one opposed, and one abstaining.