Salt Lake City, Utah - The Justice Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Friday announced a settlement with Illinois-based Stericycle Inc. resolving alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act and Utah air quality regulations at its medical waste incinerator in North Salt Lake, Utah.

The settlement, set forth in a consent decree lodged with the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, requires Stericycle to comply with EPA regulations applicable to medical waste incinerators, pay a $600,000 civil penalty, and conduct a Supplemental Environmental Project requiring the company to spend at least $2 million to purchase low- emitting school buses for a local school district.

Today’s settlement resolves violations alleged in the United States’ complaint, which was also filed today. The complaint alleges that Stericycle operated its waste incinerator in a manner that exceeded regulatory limits for nitrogen oxides (NOx), failed to properly conduct stack tests, and failed to comply with reporting requirements. EPA investigated the alleged violations in cooperation with the Utah Division of Air Quality, which concluded its own action for related violations several years ago.

“Medical waste incinerators must operate in strict compliance with our nation’s clean air laws,” said Jean E. Williams, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Stericycle has installed new pollution controls and made operational changes to remedy the violations alleged in the complaint.”

“This settlement will benefit all who live in and visit North Salt Lake,” said EPA Acting Regional Administrator Debra H. Thomas. “In addition to NOx reductions at the facility, the settlement requires Stericycle to replace old, high-emitting school buses for a local school district, providing cleaner air for school children and nearby neighborhoods.” 

The school bus replacement is a Supplemental Environmental Project, or SEP, which is an environmentally beneficial project required in a settlement that is not otherwise required by law. Diesel emissions reduction SEPs have been expressly authorized by Congress. EPA expects the SEP in this case will replace as many as 20 buses, leading to significant reductions in NOx, carbon monoxide, and diesel particulate matter and substantial fuel savings.

NOx is a key component in the formation of ground-level ozone, a pollutant that irritates lungs, exacerbates diseases such as asthma, and can increase susceptibility to respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia and bronchitis.

The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.