PO BOX 44 ~ Saxapahaw, North Carolina 27340 ~ Phone (336) 525-2003 office ~ Email:

P.O. Box 187 Bynum NC 27228 (919) 542-5790


May 25, 2010

CONTACT: Sue Dayton
(336) 525-2003

League releases data showing unacceptable levels of toxic air pollutants from Stericycle medical waste incinerator

Today the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League and the Haw River Assembly held a press conference that revealed flaws in the proposed permit renewal for the Stericycle medical waste incinerator, located in Haw River, NC. The League asked the state not to approve the draft permit for the Stericycle medical waste incinerator.

Sue Dayton, Coordinator for the League’s NC Healthy Communities project, explained the flaws in the proposed permit for Stericycle. “In every case the EPA’s new standards for existing medical waste incinerators would be stricter than the current emission limits for the nine major air pollutants in the permit proposed by the state.” Comparing the permit with the new EPA guidelines, she showed that dioxins and furans combined would be reduced 98% and mercury emissions would be reduced 97%. Dayton continued, “These new and more protective limits will have huge implications on the health and well-being of every resident and child living within close proximity of the incinerator. We ask the state not to approve a permit that allows emissions of air pollutants now deemed unsafe by the EPA.”

In October, 2009, the EPA promulgated new rules for medical waste incinerators that set stricter standards for air pollutants. However, medical waste incinerators have up to four years or by 2014 to comply with the new rules. A number of local governments, including Orange County, Chatham County and the Town of Carrboro, have adopted a resolution patterned after a Mecklenburg County resolution, which asks the NC Environmental Management Commission to require all medical waste incinerators in NC to comply with the new EPA rules by 2012 instead of 2014.

Also today, a letter from Heather Bjork, an Alamance County resident, was sent to CEO and President Mark Miller of Stericycle, Inc., and Stericycle’s Board of Directors, asking them to switch to autoclaving, a safer and more environmentally-friendly method for disposing of medical waste.

“Ninety-seven percent of medical waste does not need to be incinerated,” Bjork said. “Stericycle has the technology available today, an autoclave in Concord, NC, that is currently operating at 33% of its capacity. If the majority of waste currently being shipped to its Haw River incinerator were to be rerouted to the autoclave in Concord, it would significantly improve the quality of our air.”

At the press conference, Bjork’s children, nine-year-old Kieran and six-year-old Kendra Bjork, presented an infringement invoice to a huge, 10-ft. paper mache puppet head of CEO Mark Miller in a business suit. The invoice asked Stericycle for millions of dollars in restitution to be sent to the “current and future citizens of North Carolina” for increased illnesses and disease; impacts to surface waters, drinking water, and farmlands; increased numbers of emergency room visits and hospitalizations; lost worker productivity and loss of property values, concerning the continued costs of air pollution from the Stericycle incinerator on public health and the environment.

“Environmental pollutants, like dioxins and mercury, are more likely to negatively impact children's health than adults, “said Bjork. “Multiple studies have shown that air pollution more adversely impacts fetuses and children, and has tremendous immediate and lasting effects on their health. Environmental toxins exposure can also cause premature births, low birth weight and/or infants to be born with certain birth defects.”

The press conference was held at A Storybook Farm Christian School, 4772 Hwy. 54, in Graham, NC, a few miles from the incinerator. A huge map with a “bulls-eye” showed at least a dozen schools and twenty day care centers located within a 2.5-mile radius distance from the incinerator in Alamance County.

“The pollutants from the Stericycle stacks are ending up not just in the air we breathe, but also in the Haw River, which is adjacent to the incinerator,” said Elaine Chiosso, Haw Riverkeeper. “The Haw River flows into Jordan Lake, a drinking water source for over 300,000 Triangle residents, as well as a popular and heavily used fishing and recreation area. The toxic methylmercury can accumulate in the food chain, including people eating fish from the Haw River and Jordan Lake. Neurological damages are the main health risk, especially for children. The Haw River Assembly does not believe Stericycle's permit should be renewed with these harmful levels of toxins.”

A public hearing was held at the Alamance Community College later that day where members of the public spoke in support of clean air.

For more information contact Sue Dayton, NC Healthy Communities, at: 336-525-2003 or or Elaine Chiosso, Executive Director, Haw River Assembly, at (919) 542-5790 or


BREDL comments on draft Title V permit for Stericycle
Reductions of emissions at Stericycle under the new EPA limits
Map showing potentially-affected towns and cities in counties located within a 5, 10 and 15-mile radius from the Stericycle medical waste incinerator, Haw River, NC. Map courtesy the Haw River Assembly.