Ol’ ‘Puff the Toxic Dragon’ (Stericycle Emergency Bypass Stack) at it Again

(EnviroNews Utah) — Well, not surprisingly, old “Puff the Toxic Dragon” has been at it again. What’s that? — one might ask. Only bombing hundreds of thousands of people along the Salt Lake Valley’s Wasatch Front with downright deadly air pollution — air pollution loaded with “HAPs” or Hazardous Air Pollutants.

HAPs are much more dangerous to human health than something like carbon emissions from tailpipes, and can contain deadly volatile organic compounds, radioactive isotopes, dioxin, and myriad other lethal substances.

On September 29, 2014, the Stericycle medical waste incineration plan in North Salt Lake City, Utah blasted residents with not only one, but two large bypasses. The first spectacular bypass event went on for approximately 22 minutes according to neighborhood correspondents and brave citizens who stayed on the scene to capture it on camera.

Interestingly, the episode, one of the largest and longest lasting we have seen in a good while from Stericycle, comes in the wake of the installation of EPA-mandated equipment upgrades following a shutdown period that lasted over two weeks earlier this month.

In addition to a newly installed emergency generator implemented in August, these latest hardware updates are supposed to reduce emissions from the facility while lowering the number of bypass events. However, it would appear that ol’ Puff isn’t off to a very good start here.

Stericycle was mandated by the EPA to make the upgrades back in 2009. It’s deadline to do so? October of 2014. Like a rabble-rousing high school teen who puts their homework off until the very last minute, Stericycle procrastinated these required equipment enhancements until the final buzzer, poisoning the neighborhood more than they needed to all along, while simultaneously claiming to be a good citizen. If Stericycle knew there was better equipment out there that could reduce emissions and community health risks, and that they were going to have to spend the money on this anyway, why wait five years to do so? Is this Stericycle’s idea of what being a “good neighbor” looks like?

Naturally, after witnessing this 22 minute episode, one is left to wonder whether these latest upgrades are going to do anything to reduce Stericycle’s magnificent events at all. Even though Stericycle hasn’t done an on-camera interview with the media in months, Jennifer Koenig, spokeswoman for Stericycle made a point to make her way onto KSL’s Doug Wright show the morning following these bypasses in order to assure Utahans that their new gear is working just fabulously, and that it has saved citizens from being bombed with three emergency bypasses already. Here’s what she had to say about this on what surely offered one of the safest and least confrontational media platforms available to the beleaguered company:

KSL’s Doug Wright: Another thing mentioned in the Governor’s release is requiring installation of a new emergency generator to reduce the emergency bypass events. If I’m recalling everything correctly some of the emissions, some of the releases, some of the smoke that has actually come out has been when there has been a problem with energy, with electricity or something. Fist of all, I hope I have that right. And then what about the emergency generator? Where does that all fit in?

Jennifer Koenig: Sure. So, you are absolutely correct that some of the events from our facility have resulted from power surges. And, the generator was actually put in place in the early part of August. So, it is up and running now and from the data that we’ve captured we believe that we’ve prevented three bypass events as a result of power surges from occurring because that generator is in place and supporting the entire facility.

Those are some pretty interesting comments from the Stericycle VP. Were these statements actually intended to provide comfort to the enraged Foxoboro community after yesterday’s not one, but two emergency bypasses. If a serial killer said “because of my new medication I have killed three less people than I would have otherwise, although I did slip up last night and kill two more,” would that provide any comfort to the local community? Please weigh in on our blog below and let us know if you took any solace in Stericyce’s comments on KSL today.

What is even more infuriating to many citizens savvy to the inner workings of Utah’s regulatory framework is the fact that these highly dangerous episodes typically don’t even constitute a violation of any kind and come totally without consequence to Stericycle, because these bypasses are said to be a “safety feature” that keeps the plant from blowing up. In other words, when one of these massive burn-offs happen, the incinerator is said to be operating within “normal perameters.”

As we have made clear in the past, Stericycle, and perhaps medical waste incineration technology as a whole, can best be equated to the emissions of a bedwetting child who simply can’t help themselves. And maybe, just maybe, this is part of the reason why the total number of medical waste incinerators burning junk in the U.S. has plummeted from 6,200 back in 1988 to a meager 33 left in operation today. The question is: Just how much longer will Utah tolerate a big bedwetting, smoke and fire-breathing dragon in the midst of the neighborhood? That remains to be seen.

Thank you for watching EnviroNews.

Ol’ ‘Puff the Toxic Dragon’ (Stericycle Emergency Bypass Stack) at it Again

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