The LaPorte County Medical Society has adopted a resolution opposing Stericycle Inc.’s application for a permit to operate an infectious waste processing facility in Michigan City.
Meanwhile, the founder of Stericycle says that while the company hasn’t abandoned its effort to locate the plant in Michigan City, it may look elsewhere in Indiana. Stericycle founder Dr. James Sharp has said the company won’t open a plant in a community that doesn’t want it.
The Medical Society resolution was approved unanimously by about 20 physicians at the society’s general membership meeting March 17, according to Dr. Vidya Kora, the group’s secretary. It is the latest remonstrance in a growing chorus of local opposition to the proposed plant.
Kora said the members considered the plant’s possible negative impact on the image of the community, along with Stericycle’s stated plans to disinfect medical waste by heating it to about 200 degrees Fahrenheit. That temperature is just below the boiling point of water.
Kora said the doctors feared the heat would not be sufficient to kill all the infectious organisms in the medical waste. They also voiced concerns about Stericycle's plans to dump its waste in the Gary Sanitary Landfill in Lake County.
“I think the general feeling among people … is that Stericycle is not a good thing to have in town,” Kora said.
The group is a professional association of doctors from throughout LaPorte County. The resolution will be submitted to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, which is considering Stericycle’s application for an operating permit.
The resolution reads as follows:
“Based on the current information, the LaPorte County Medical Society feels that the proposed mechanism to treat medical waste by Stericycle is not foolproof. Consequently, the society appeals to IDEM to reject (Stericycle’s) application for a permit.”
IDEM has already received hundreds of telephone calls, petitions and letters from citizens opposed to Stericycle's proposal to locate its facility in the South Lake Michigan Industrial Park. But the physicians’ resolution is expected to carry particular weight because IDEM will base its permit decision on the technical merits of the proposal.
Sharp, who is also vice chairman of Stericycle, which is based in Rolling Meadows, Ill., said he was “truly disappointed” that the society discussed and passed the resolution without seeking Stericycle’s side of the issue.
“What’s really unsettling to me is the heavy-handed way the people who oppose this are going about it,” he said. “It’s a common courtesy to listen to both sides of an issue. Certainly they could have extended an opportunity to me as a fellow physician to come in to talk to them about it.”
Sharp also indicated that while the company hasn’t abandoned Michigan City, it is considering seeking approval for a site in a different Indiana community. “We do have communities that definitely want us, unlike Michigan City,” he said.
He declined to identify the municipalities, saying he feared Michigan City opponents would contact them and try to “discredit” the company.
Sharp surmised a possible “win-win situation,” in which the company pulled its Michigan City permit application and transferred it to another community. The company, Michigan City and the new community all would benefit if IDEM agreed to continue its review of the permit application rather than start all over again, he said.
“We’ve invested a lot of time and energy in Michigan City,” Sharp said. “But we’ll never put a plant where the negativity is so great.”