(EnviroNews DC News Bureau) — In this episode, we see an excerpt from the full feature EnviroNews documentary Medical Waste Madness — ‘The Devil’s Work’ — Stericycle Plant Whistelblower Tells All.
In the documentary snip, an ex-employee of the North Salt Lake-based medical waste incineration facility claims he was ordered by plant supervisors to deliberately feed waste bags into the incinerator that were tested and known to be radioactive. The transcript is as follows:
Without being prompted or questioned in anyway, the whistleblower seemed to have something red hot on his chest – something that he wanted to get out into the open straight away.
Within a few minutes of commencing this unprecedented interview, the man made an allegation – an accusation that, if true, would almost certainly land Stericycle in a position of being in violation of Utah State, Federal, and even International Law – Take a listen:
Emerson Urry: Okay, we’re here on EnviroNews Utah this evening with an ex-employee of the Stericycle medical waste incineration facility in North Salt Lake City, UT. And I want to say think you to you for joining us.
Ex-employee: You’re welcome.
Urry: What can you tell us about your employment there? What was your position or your tasks that you took care of?
Ex-employee: My position started as unloading the trucks. – And that lasted for about a week, and then I went to actually loading the belt that goes into the incinerator to burn everything. And the way they had us do it, we’d get… like BT-01’s are some of the cases they had, and they’d have us throw three or four on a scale, and just scan one of them. And each thing has a tag where who generated the… what hospital it came from, where it came from; each box had its own tag.
Urry: You said that they’d only have you scan one of them?
Ex-employee: They’d only have us scan one bar code for three containers.
Urry: And what was the reasoning behind that?
Ex-employee: Some were radioactive like the chemotherapy type stuff, and so we’d put that on the scale, but we’d scan the one that’s not radioactive – not the chemo. So, they’d burn it and everyone knows it’s kind of dangerous to burn that kind of stuff.
Urry: And so what kind of radiation detecting equipment do they have over there?
Ex-employee: I can’t remember just the name of the thing they had, but it’s actually to detect radiation. But, it worked when it wanted to.
Urry: What does that mean?
Ex-employee: If it actually detected it… it’s lucky if it was actually working right. All their equipment is pretty much ran down there. They like to Mickey Mouse things together to try to save money from actually putting repairs on everything — Like when they opened the bypass valve the other day… (I) think it was February when they did it. It probably was something they did wrong; something was malfunctioning and then instead of trying to fix it right, they just opened that one instead. Like, they do a lot of half-assed stuff.
Urry: So when these bags come in and they’re off-loaded are they scanning every single bag to test it for radioactive materials or?
Ex-employee: No. No.
Urry: Just a small fraction or do they just hand select some?
Ex-employee: I can’t remember what the exact tool’s name is that they use to detect radioactivity, but…
Urry: The Geiger Counter?
Ex-employee: That’s it. There’s a scale tight here that we put everything on to get the weights, and it goes across, and it’s supposed to work, but it worked only half the time.
Urry: So what happens if some radiation was detected in any of the bags? What would they do?
Ex-employee: Some of them they put on another truck so everything would look like they were doing everything right; but probably about half of it got put on the truck, the other half got burned.
Urry: So they would knowingly send radioactive bags right through the incinerator?
Ex-employee: Yes. Yes.
Urry: Was that being ordered by plant managers or how was that determined?
Ex-employee: By the supervisor.
Urry: By the supervisor? So there was literally someone…
Ex-employee: When I first started, I thought I was doing everything the right way cause I didn’t know; this was the first time I worked in an incinerator. So I was just doing my job. You know what I mean? — What I was getting paid to do.
Urry: So essentially a supervisor just kind of stands there and on a bag by bag basis…
Ex-employee: She wasn’t even in the plant after she told us what to do. So, she just trying to leave and go do her own thing.
Upon his own admission, our own Executive Editor was so absolutely flabbergasted by the radioactive revelations bestowed by the man, that Urry questioned him again regarding his accusations of Stericycle’s deliberate, burning of radioactive waste — which, as we mentioned, is illegal according to State, Federal, and even International law.
Ex-Employee: ‘Cause some of them we had to look to see if there was any way it could be chemo stuff. ‘Cause I’d try to do the chemo stuff. I’d try to throw (it) off to the side.
Urry: Is that because it’s going to be tested further, or because it could be radioactive?
Ex-employee: Because it could be radioactive and everything. They’re supposed to be put in certain containers, but they weren’t. And that could be either Stericycle switching them out, or it could be the hospitals not doing their job properly. So…
Urry: But you’ve definitely, you know, seen supervisors order the incineration of bags that were known and tested to be radioactive?
Urry: And was it known by employees of the facility that that is a direct violation of their Title V air pollution permit?
Ex-employee: At the time when I was working there, no, I didn’t know that part, but there had to be somebody that knew it. They didn’t tell me any of the parts of like what the violations could be or anything. They just basically told me, this is your job, do it. So…
Upon examination of Stericycle’s Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste Title V air pollution permit, one will find that front-and-center; on page one is the blatant exclusion from their permit of radioactive materials.
On Sept. 7, 2013, in an EnviroNews Utah article, the point was made for the first time in the media that Stericycle, was inevitably burning radioactive elements on nearly a daily basis, because frankly, we all have at least a few radionuclides inside. That’s right, you and I, and virtually everyone on the planet for that matter; all have to varying degrees, deadly radioactive isotopes in our bodies. From huffing on and eating Chernobyl and Fukushima, to bomb testing fall out and nuclear experiments, to multiple other nuclear accidents including America’s massive Rocketdyne meltdown, we are all, at least slightly radioactive — a point that was hammered home by Dr. Brian Moench of the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, one week after the release of the EnviroNews article, at a press conference on Utah’s Capitol Hill. Take a listen:
Moench: There’s a high likelihood that some of the human and animal tissues that are incinerated in this facility may also be releasing radioactive elements because all of us have radioactive elements in our bodies. Virtually anything that’s in our bodies is going to be emitted up Stericycle’s smokestack.
Radiation, being elemental in nature, cannot be destroyed by burning — only vaporized more finely and spread for hundreds, if not thousands of miles via the air. Once a radionuclide, always a radionuclide — until it decays of course — a process that for many isotopes such as uranium and plutonium take millions, if not billions of years.
Utah, in particular has its own name, “downwinders,” for people affected by the testing of nuclear bombs in Nevada — people that have suffered the effects of radiation poisoning and elevated cancer rates because of radioactive particles that did not respect state borders.
Now radiation rears its ugly head again in the form of medical waste disposal and the inability of Stericycle, and the places where it gets its waste from, to eliminate the radioactive materials from the burn process.
The views expressed in this interview are the opinions of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of EnviroNews or its corresponding journalists, executives, or affiliated networks.
The documentary in it’s entirety can be viewed below.