OCTOBER 4, 2010
TOWN OF ELON
Stericycleʼs waste disposal: A threat to Alamance County? At Monday’s Town of Elon meeting, concerned resident Heather Bjork proposed changes to local medical waste incinerators by Madelyn Smith Other Meeting Highlights ---Elon Town Planner Sean Tencer has
helped Elon achieve Level One of the North Carolina League of Municipalities Green Challenge. The initiative focuses on preserving the environment. Tencer and the board now have the opportunity to achieve the Intermediate Level of the Green Challenge. ---Board member Davis Montgomery recently met with Elon University administrators to discuss future visions and economic development for the town of Elon. “It is exciting to think of Elon changing and being a viable downtown,” he said. “We realize it’s going to be a long trip. But it’s excited to actually get things started.” ---Board members discussed the addition of a speakerphone to allow board members to voice opinions while absent during meetings. photo by Jack Dodson
Elon – Stericycle, a global medical waste disposal company, has two medical waste incinerators located in Graham, North Carolina. Many Elon residents may not know these exist, and according to local resident Heather Bjork, most people do not realize the potentially harmful effects they cause. At an agenda-setting meeting of the Elon board of Aldermen on Monday, Bjork, who is also a mother of two, expressed her concern for the amount of harmful chemicals that are released by medical waste incinerators such as these. “These Stericycle medical waste incinerators are currently burning 1.5 pounds of medical waste for every man, woman and child in Alamance County,” she said. “But only 2 to 3 percent of the waste actually needs to be incinerated for public safety.” It is this unnecessary disposal of medical waste that Bjork says is currently posing the biggest problem for Alamance County and the surrounding areas. She then listed the byproducts of Stericycle’s medical waste disposal, which are primarily dioxins, mercury and lead. She explained to the board that these pose a great risk to children during their developmental stages and that these known human carcinogens may be to blame for higher cancer rates in Alamance County. Mayor of Elon Jerry Tolley asked for clarification about who Bjork was representing. She responded, “I am just
a concerned mother with no hidden agenda. There are 13 schools within a few miles of the incinerator, so this is something that we need to worry about for our kids. It is a big deal.” Bjork’s primary proposal was for the board to take into account the dangers associated with the medical waste incinerators in Graham. She proposed that they vote to require Stericycle to abide by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards by 2012, rather than the nationally set date of October 2014. These newer, stricter guidelines would discourage companies such as Stericycle from continuing their current practices. Other residents who support this issue have proposed the change at several town meetings in areas surrounding Graham, including the town of Graham itself. However, Graham opposed Stericycle’s shift to stricter EPA regulations. “I want to find out why Graham did not approve this when Stericycle is in their town,” said Tolley. “Is this because of jobs? Other economical factors? It’s important to know the reasoning behind their decision.” The Elon Board of Aldermen will hold their regular meeting next Tuesday.