(EnviroNews Utah) — Well, the “King of the Emergency Bypass” is at it again. What’s that? — Only vomiting one of the deadliest black broths on the planet all over the poor, local, unsuspecting townsfolk. This is the second time in the past week that Stericycle has had such a release — at least that we know of.
Harold Burge, compliance specialist with the Utah Department of Air Quality (DAQ) told EnviroNews Utah that Stericycle called in the event to the DAQ, blaming a morning power bump for the episode — an excuse that residents have heard time and again, not only from Stericycle, but also from the five local oil refineries on Utah’s “Refinery Row.”
More often than not, massive releases from Steriycle, the refineries and others are blamed on a surge, drainage, or interruption in the power grid — something that Foxboro resident Barbara Crandall knew all too well when she experienced the outage and quickly grabbed her camera — sure enough, her instincts turned out to be correct. She sent in this eyewitness account through the EnviroNews News Tip Hotline:
At around 9:10 AM this morning, Aug. 7, 2014, we had a power bump. The first thing I did was grab the camera because I knew that Stericycle would be filling the air with their black poison. The bypass event lasted about 15 minutes. It does not usually last that long usually, only last about 5 minutes. We have had a lot of power bumps the last little while and every time we have one we have to put up with Stericycle. We have called RMP (Rocky Mountain Power) to have them see if they can find the cause for the bump in the power.
In our article covering last Saturday’s similar emergency bypass episode also caused by a power bump, we equated Stericycle’s old North Salt Lake City medical waste incineration facility to a “bedwetting child” that simply “can’t help” its releases. It would appear that in short order, this analogy is proving itself to be correct.
Part of the problem seems to be the way that Utah’s regulatory guidelines are crafted. The current rules release polluters from culpability if the bypass event is caused by an “act of God”, or in other words, “unforeseeable” event like a power outage. This means that no Notice of Violation (NOV), fine, fee, penalty, or punishment of any kind is rendered in these circumstances.
Essentially, an egregious toxic dump like the ones seen in the videos above must be the result of negligence or operator error for the DAQ to punish a company, and those tickets might only end up running $10,000 dollars a day — a meager slap on the wrist, tax write-off, and cost of doing business nuisance for a multi-billion dollar company such as Stericycle.
In a follow up email with Burge, we inquired as to if there are any state-of-art safety systems available that can backup and better regulate the flow of electricity to an incinerator or refinery? — technologies that could help protect communities from episodes like the one that occurred today? Here is what Burge told EnviroNews on that topic:
They have a back-up generator like most other facilities do, but they can’t provide enough power to keep the plant in normal operation during power outages – its emergency power only. It’s the same for the refineries. The only alternative is to have your own full-scale power plant. The utilities use a grid system which links multiple power plants together to try and ensure reliable power. The power outages we experience are not normally due to a lack of power production, they are due to problems in transmission (lines, substations, etc.). Rocky Mountain Power would be a good resource for any questions you may have on power reliability issues in the area.
It is still unknown to us if a “full scale power plant” is the only way to insure a refinery or incinerator against an emergency bypass during a power bump, but we are investigating this further. If better safety technologies to protect against bypasses from power outages exist, it might be pertinent to mandate that companies with dangerous emission potentials install them — a subject that we are hoping to report on further in the future.
Medical waste incineration is a crude, highly hazardous, and outdated method of dealing with the byproducts generated by the medical industry everyday. But not only does the waste contain incredible amounts of dioxin-creating plastics, but also massive amounts of heavy metals from sharps and syringes, in addition to disease-tainted blood and tissue, amputated limbs, aborted fetuses, narcotics and drugs, mad cow-causing prions, and even radioactive tumors and cancer treatment waste — all mixed into one deadly soup that not only can kill, but that can also mutate the genes of unborn children causing birth defects, learning disabilities, and even cancer.
A person would be hard-pressed to find a deadlier concoction of fumes, containing a vaster array of carcinogenic, mutagenic, and downright lethal poisons than those burped forth from a medical waste incinerator bypass like the one witnessed today, but it’s the frequency of these events, and the apparent downright disregard from Stereicycle that has local residents perplexed and angry.
Due to mounting public pressure last year, Stericycle did finally agree to move its North Salt Lake facility out of the densely populated Foxboro community in North Salt Lake — small consolation to many air quality activists in the state of Utah who feel that medical waste incineration should not be allowed in Utah period.
The company is set to move its incinerator out to Tooele, a meager 30 miles or so from the greater Salt Lake area, in spite of studies that suggest dioxin and other deadly poison from incinerators can travel for hundreds and hundreds of miles, contaminating unsuspecting communities wherever they fall out.
Despite being under Utah state and Federal DOJ criminal investigations for allegedly cheating on compliance tests, Stericycle forges ahead with its new plan for Tooele County.
Stericycle has also not obtained a Title V air pollution permit for the new location, and there are several other problems with the Tooele move as well — one being that nobody really knows how long it’s going to take for them to get out of Dodge, nor how much longer local Foxboro residents and all Utahans alike must continue to choke on Stericycle’s black, deadly bypass fumes.
FILM AND ARTICLE CREDITS
- Emerson Urry - Journalist, Author, Research Journalist, Editor, Sound Editor, 3D Animator