NORTH SALT LAKE, Utah (AP) — Celebrity activist Erin Brockovich is lending her name to a campaign by Utah activists to shut down a medical-waste incinerator.
Organizers said Brockovich is joining a protest meeting and march Saturday in North Salt Lake, where the incinerator is located.
Utah regulators accused waste-management company Stericycle Inc. of releasing toxic pollutants earlier this year and falsifying records at the burn plant. The case gained national attention with a YouTube video showing a billowing black cloud over the incinerator Sept. 6.
The group Communities for Clean Air will host the town hall-style meeting at 2 p.m. at Foxboro Elementary School, followed by a “Close It Down” march to the plant that’s surrounded by new housing developments and several schools.
Brockovich was made famous by the release of an award-winning 2000 movie, “Erin Brockovich,” which profiled her efforts as a young law clerk to uncover a California pollution case. She was portrayed by actress Julia Roberts.
Brockovich has a team of environmental investigators. One of them, Bob Bowcock, is lambasting the North Salt Lake incinerator on her website, brockovich.com.
“There’s an elementary school just up the street, for crying out loud,” Bowcock wrote. “I wouldn’t let the dog pound move next door.”
The Associated Press sought comment over several days this week from executives for corporate communications, investor relations and human resources at Lake Forest, Ill.-based Stericycle. Another phone message was left at the home of Stericycle’s chief executive and president, Charles Alutto. None was returned.
Utah regulators cited Stericycle for releasing cancer-causing dioxins in May, together with the paperwork violations. Following the Sept. 6 toxic release, which remains under investigation, the regulators decided to seek stiffer penalties for the May violations.
Stericycle has been given until Monday to file an administrative appeal of the May violations.
“We tried to negotiate a settlement with them. It’s all about penalties,” said Donna Spangler, a spokeswoman for the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. “We’re going to want a big number. We’re going to hold them to account for violations of their permit.”
Regulators also are demanding Stericycle improve operational safety to minimize errant releases. They want the company to add a backup generator for loss of power. An emergency shutdown reportedly caused the Sept. 6 toxic cloud.
Spangler said there have been no confirmed toxic outbreaks at the burn plant since Sept. 6. She said that Gov. Gary Herbert “is really concerned about this facility” and has called for a study of the Stericycle operation by the Utah Department of Health.
“They run six incinerators in several states,” said Brian Moench, an anesthesiologist and president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. “The one in North Salt Lake accepts medical waste from eight surrounding states. If we can get this one shut down, it will have a ripple effect throughout the industry.”
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