(EnviroNews California) – The Salt Lake Valley has a high number of industrial air polluters. To be frank, it’s loaded with them and its population is hobbled by some of the most dangerous air pollution on the entire planet. The pollution crisis is so severe, in fact, that even celebrity activist Erin Brockovich has gotten involved.
With an inversion-prone topography, the mountainous bowl that surrounds one of the most densely populated areas in the United States serves to trap wintertime air — and all of the valley’s automobile and industrial crap with it — directly on top of the people. It’s kind of like being held captive in a garage with the car running, and similarly deadly.
Environmental groups have been battling against Kennecott Utah Copper, the largest point source in the state, as well as the five oil refineries that sit right in the middle of the neighborhood between Woods Cross and North Salt Lake for years. However, a tiny little building with two tiny little smoke stacks — insignificant by comparison — has been taking the brunt of the air-pollution heat lately, from both environmental and community groups.
That little building belongs to the company Stericycle, and their business is the dirty, practically back-alley endeavor of incinerating medical waste, a waste so toxic that it can be considered deadly from its seemingly never-ending list of toxic substances.
Near this building, just by walking down the street, you can find yourself choking down an unimaginably poisonous yet invisible cocktail, containing every conceivable combination of dioxins, furans, mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, chlorine and hydrogen fluoride gas — not to mention aborted fetuses, “Gramma’s” ashes, diseased human cadaver parts and infectious animal corpses. And that’s just for starters.
It has also come into the spotlight over the last couple of months that the old waste burner is almost certainly emitting radiation and invariably fatal brain-munching prions into the open environment.
Residents complain of myriad health problems, including unusual cancers, learning disabilities and birth defects. This is in addition to their staggering one in 32 autism rate for boys that lands Utah in first place in America for that dismal category, and second only to South Korea in the world.
In a neighborhood so completely riddled with big-source polluters, just how can any one company be pinned down and held responsible for its part in this unbelievable environmental and human health catastrophe? Won’t they all simply point the finger at another guy and say, “Hey, it was that polluter over there that caused your kid’s leukemia — not us”?
That question was posed to famed environmental activist Erin Brockovich as it pertains to Stericycle’s medical-waste incinerator by EnviroNews USA Editor-in-Chief Emerson Urry. Just exactly how can any one company be singled out on a health-related class-action lawsuit when there are so many other potential culprits in the neighborhood to blame?
Brockovich, who was the subject of the Academy Award-winning movie Erin Brockovich, starring Julia Roberts, has gained celebrity status as the tenacious activist and researcher responsible for costing California’s Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) Company $333 million and $335 million dollars in two cases, with a third case pending.
Although it would seem like an insurmountable task to pin down any particular culprit as the cause of specific disease patterns in a vastly polluted airshed, what Brockovich had to say on this topic just might surprise you.