STOREY COUNTY, Nev.- A medical waste burning company is heading to northern Nevada, bringing with it a lot of criticism.
In July 2022, Stericycle announced the closure of its factory in north Salt Lake. It is currently being rebuilt in the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center, roughly halfway between Sparks and Fernley. Stericycle intends to construct and operate two incinerators at the site.
These incinerators will burn potentially contagious materials such as bandages or PPE, as well as trace chemotherapeutic waste and sharp trash such as needles and scalpels. According to the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, no human waste will be burnt at the Nevada plant.
“We don’t have any hospital medical waste incinerators in Nevada so we researched what the requirements were. We talked to the federal EPA,” said Greg Lovato, Administrator of the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection.
In Utah, the corporation had difficulties. After Utah’s Division of Air Quality alleged Stericycle failed emissions testing for more than a year, the firm agreed to pay a record $2.3 million fine in 2014. According to the EPA, the factory emitted pollutants that aggravate ailments such as asthma and increase susceptibility to respiratory disorders such as pneumonia and bronchitis.
Residents were anxious about what was in the incinerator’s black smoke. They have been protesting and expressing worries about the plant’s proximity to homeowners’ houses for more than a decade. When the firm built the factory in 1992, the area was primarily rural; since then, dwellings have been developed closer together.
Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment is leading the effort to close the plant.
“For 33 years Stericycle poured out their smokestack their witches brew of many of the most toxic substances known to science,” said Dr. Brian Moench in July in Utah.
In addition to the substantial punishment, Stericycle was forced to close its Salt Lake City location this summer. The company elected to relocate to the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center in northern Nevada.
The Nevada Division of Environmental Protection stated that if the corporation meets the state’s requirements, it does not have the authority to revoke the permit. According to the administrator, given the company’s track record, it will be keeping a tight check on the plant.
“There will be announced inspections, unannounced inspections. We also have continuous emissions monitoring systems that’s going to be on there now so they’re actually going to have real-time monitoring of what’s coming out of the stack,” Lovato stated.
Lovato stated that the permission was given because his office believes the company can operate securely.
“To be fair, I think that the company showed that they operated in compliance, since those incidents in 2013 and so they were able to show a pretty long record of compliance after that,” he added.
Storey County manager Austin Osborne declined to comment on any concerns, instead stating that they will rely on the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection and its rigorous rules.
The following statement was issued by Stericycle:
Stericycle is thrilled to be working alongside the Storey County and McCarran communities to build our hospital, medical, and infectious waste incinerator (HMIWI) facility in the Tahoe Reno Industry Center (TRIC) in McCarran, Nevada, and to meet a major public health need. Our new, technologically advanced facility will provide hospitals and healthcare systems with excellent medical waste treatment and disposal – a necessary service that aids in the prevention of infection transmission – while also helping job growth and the local economy.
For a variety of reasons, we chose Storey County and the TRIC as the appropriate location for our Western flagship plant, including:
- We can now better serve our healthcare customers throughout the Western Region thanks to the new facility.
- The property is in an industrial park zoned expressly for heavy industry, which increases our access to the necessary infrastructure as well as highway access.
- The solid network of local contractors and active businesses that allows us to hire locally and develop our community connection as we build and operate this facility.
- The McCarran facility is subject to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s tougher emissions criteria for new HMIWIs.
Furthermore, our HMIWI plant will have a lower environmental impact than other incinerators, such as municipal garbage incinerators, which are typically greater in size and throughput. The McCarran facility is estimated to emit nearly the same amount of pollution as ten semi-trucks running for the same amount of time at any given time. Our new plant is likewise designed to use as little water as feasible and will use recycled water instead of potable water where possible. Federal, state, and local environmental agencies strictly monitor our services, as they do all medical waste transportation and treatment businesses.
Stericycle, as a global industry leader, has assisted communities in dealing with outbreaks, natural disasters, and other situations of emergency, including processing medical waste and supporting crucial healthcare needs in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. We assist healthcare organizations in protecting the health and well-being of the people and communities they serve by providing safe, sustainable, and responsible products and services.
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