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Tacoma hazardous waste operation fined $1.9 million by state

Stericycle-Tacoma has 30 days to appeal the penalty to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board.

TACOMA, Wash — Editor's note: The above video is from a 2017 story on regulating the Tideflats in Tacoma.

A Tacoma hazardous-waste facility has been slapped with a $1.9 million state Department of Ecology fine for mismanagement and other problems that led to a fire.

The fine announced Monday against Stericycle-Tacoma is the fourth-largest ever levied by the Ecology Department, according to the Associated Press.

The $1.9 million fine mostly results from an investigation into a July 2018 fire ignited by tetrazole, a chemical used to inflate vehicle airbags that state officials said was improperly handled by the facility staff. 

Stericycle-Tacoma, which operates under the name “Burlington Environmental,” is one of two businesses in the state that collects, manage and dispose of hazardous waste generated by industries and businesses. Because their business manages dangerous chemicals, it is legally required to safely and properly handle material with the utmost care, according to the Department of Ecology.

During Ecology’s investigation of the fire, Stericycle provided misleading and incomplete documentation. Ecology inspectors also discovered that the company failed to properly manage the waste and residue left by the fire.

Ecology's director Maia Bellon said people could have been hurt or killed by Stericycle's mismanagement of the dangerous materials.

The Ecology Department said Stericycle's operation in Tacoma is the largest private hazardous-waste disposal facility in Washington.

A Stericycle spokesperson said in a statement the company has "aggressively pursued improvements" that include investments in new training, new equipment and the hiring of new leadership at the Tacoma facility.

The company has 30 days to appeal the penalty to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board.

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