Pols increase calls for Sterigenics to be shut down
Willowbrook firm unapologetic as clamor increases over ethylene oxide emissions
By Ted Cox
Clamor increased to shut down Sterigenics after Tuesday’s announcement of new spikes of ethylene oxide detected in air samples taken near the firm’s Willowbrook facilities.
Prodded by the Stop Sterigenics community group, which said it was “outraged” at the latest test results from the Environmental Protection Agency, Democrats and Republicans renewed calls for the firm to be shut down.
Attorney General Kwame Raoul and DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin issued a joint statement saying, “We are very deeply troubled by recent media reports showing improper operations at the Sterigenics facility in Willowbrook,” and pledging to “exercise all available legal authority to protect the community from this exposure.”
According to Raoul and Berlin, Tuesday’s release of the latest air samples in the area removes all doubt and shows “a clear link between EtO emissions from the Sterigenics facilities and elevated EtO levels within the Willowbrook community.”
State Sen. John Curran, of Downers Grove, said the latest findings show two things: “that the air around this facility is not safe, and that the safeguards put in place by Sterigenics are failing to adequately address these critical issues. Therefore, I am reiterating my call that Sterigenics cease operations immediately.” Curran added that, if the company doesn’t voluntarily suspend operations, “then the state must step in and shut them down.”
Sterigenics, however, was unapologetic and resistant, as its website on the issue continued to proclaim “Willowbrook Facility Operates Safely.” The company issued a statement in response to Tuesday’s clamor saying: “There are other sources of ethylene oxide in the Willowbrook area unrelated to the Sterigenics facility, (and) the range of results in the residential areas of Willowbrook are consistent with background levels of EtO across the Chicago area.”
U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth wasn’t buying it. Duckworth issued a statement saying: “This new EPA data confirms what we have feared: Sterigenics continues to pose a threat to the health of its neighbors.” She added that, while she can’t undo the damage — with a federal report already having found an increased incidence of cancer in the area around Willowbrook — she urged the EPA to initiate action to shut down Sterigenics under provisions in the Clean Air Act. She also cited a report earlier this week from WBBM-TV Channel 2 in Chicago in “calling on EPA to investigate recent alarming allegations made by former Sterigenics employees that the company intentionally violated the law and put their own employees at risk.”
Gov. J.B. Pritzker also called on the EPA to take immediate action, but added in a tweet that “my administration and the Illinois EPA are reviewing all possible options to protect the health and safety of Willowbrook residents.”
On Thursday, Pritzker and Raoul issued a joint statement calling the latest reports “deeply disturbing” and urging the EPA “to take swift and effective action to protect the health and safety of families living near the facility.” The EPA and the IEPA were to meet with Sterigenics representatives, and “after this meeting, we will evaluate any outcomes and exercise all available legal authority to protect the community from this exposure.”