Sterigenics has reached a deal with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) to reopen its Willowbrook facility. The plant has been shut down since early 2019 following an IEPA order prohibiting the company from using cancer-causing ethylene oxide gas in its sterilization process.
Sterigenics Cleared to Resume Without Fines
Sterigenics and the IEPA filed their agreement in DuPage County Circuit Court, where it would have to be approved before taking effect. The agreement would clear the company to restart operations at its Willowbrook facility following the installation of new equipment to reduce its emissions of ethylene oxide, a known cancer-causing gas.
Under a draft construction permit that has been released to the public for comment, the IEPA would require Sterigenics to limit the ethylene oxide output from one of its two Willowbrook buildings to 85 pounds a year. This would mark a drastic reduction from the 2,890 pounds of ethylene oxide the facility released in 2017. The agreement would also require Sterigenics to monitor the facility’s emissions at all times. (The company said it had no immediate plans to attempt to reopen its second Willowbrook building.)
In exchange for its compliance, the IEPA would essentially let Sterigenics off the hook, at least in terms of its obligations to the state. The agreement absolves the company of any liability with state regulators for past pollution problems. It also would not require the company to pay any fines to the IEPA, the agency that effectively shut down the Willowbrook facility in February in response to independent environmental testing that found “the highest levels of [ethylene oxide] recorded in the area to date.”
Many Lawmakers Opposed to Sterigenics Deal
The parties behind the agreement insist that the improvements would reduce the risk of developing cancer from breathing the facility’s ethylene oxide emissions to about one case for every million people exposed during their lifetimes. If achieved, this would meet the federal government’s most protective standard. But many lawmakers are not pleased with the news and have restated their demand that Sterigenics leave Willowbrook permanently.
“For years, as testing has shown, Sterigenics has posed a critical public health risk to our communities,” said State Sen. John Curran. “They must remain closed.”
“All agencies and officials involved should be united in working towards keeping Sterigenics closed permanently,” added House Minority Leader Jim Durkin. “They have no place in Willowbrook and I will continue to fight to keep their doors closed.”
Have You Developed Cancer in the Willowbrook Area?
GWC Injury Lawyers has been retained by several parties who have lived or worked near the Sterigenics facility for a number of years and have developed cancers or other serious medical conditions that may be related to their exposure to ethylene oxide gas.
If you have lived or worked near the Sterigenics facility in Willowbrook and have been diagnosed with cancer, contact GWC today for a free consultation. Call our office at (312) 464-1234 or click here to chat with one of our representatives at any time.