Environmental activist Erin Brockovich was in North Salt Lake City over the weekend to join the fight against Stericycle’s medical waste incinerator. Brockovich is lending her celebrity status and investigatory resources to community members who want the incinerator out of their neighborhood. Brockovich says she came to North Salt Lake because concerned mothers asked her to.
“I’m here to support them, cheer them on, we’re here to answer their legal questions, we’re here to take a look at their medical conditions, and help them in their fight,” Brockovich says. “Stericycle needs to move.”
Brockovich and her team distributed a health survey to a packed auditorium at Foxboro Elementary School, less than a mile down the road from Stericyle’s incinerator. Residents who live near the incinerator have reported respiratory problems and headaches, neurological problems, fertility issues, miscarriages, premature and low-birth weight babies. Brockovich says the first step is to gather information.
“I have mothers who are in the hospital currently with their children from these neighborhoods that have leukemia. They’re trying to get the mothers together so we can look at those numbers,” Brockovich says.
Whether or not they can prove that these health issues are tied to the incinerator, those at the protest say they will not feel safe until Stericycle is out of their neighborhood. Foxboro resident Aaron Wiley is standing in front of the incinerator, where the protest march ended. He filmed an emergency incident at the plant earlier this month, when waste was released through an unfiltered bypass stack during a power outage. The video shows flames and black smoke billowing out of the stack.
“We knew we had a big problem on our hands. We knew that it was a pretty dirty trail of what was happening in our community, and it kind of validates it that even Erin Brockovich and her team are coming out here to investigate it because we have a serious problem, and it needs to get resolved,” Wiley says.
Stericycle officials released a statement over the weekend, saying the incinerator is in full compliance with permit conditions. The statement also says that the company has installed further controls, more robust monitoring, and preventative maintenance features. The state Division of Air Quality cited the company in May this year for excess emissions of toxic pollutants and for falsifying stack tests. Stericycle faces possible fines of up to 10,000 dollars for every day they were out of compliance – from December 2011 to April this year. DAQ Director Bryce Bird has said that the state will revoke Stericycle’s permit if the company is not able to demonstrate compliance going forward.