Dems ask EPA to inspect Lake County EtO firms

Members of Congress call for testing at Medline, Vantage

Illinois congressional Democrats are calling for EPA inspections at Lake County firms using EtO, including Medline Inc. (One Illinois/Ted Cox0

Illinois congressional Democrats are calling for EPA inspections at Lake County firms using EtO, including Medline Inc. (One Illinois/Ted Cox0

By Ted Cox

Illinois congressional Democrats called on the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday to “immediately” launch tests and inspections at two Lake County firms using carciongenic ethylene oxide.

Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin joined Reps. Lauren Underwood, Sean Casten, Bill Foster, Brad Schneider, and Dan Lipinski in sending a letter to the EPA’s Region 5 administrator serving the Great Lakes area in seeking tests of all firms using EtO. But the letter specifically cited Medline Inc. in Waukegan and Vantage Specialty Chemicals in Gurnee and asked that inspections including ambient air testing be conducted at both locations.

The letter cited EtO’s danger as a carcinogen and how EtO measurements dropped in the Willowbrook area after Sterigenics was shut down by the Illinois EPA in February. Previously, a federal report found a cancer cluster in the suburbs surrounding the Sterigenics facilities.

“Medline Inc. in Waukegan and Vantage Specialty Chemicals Inc. in Gurnee have not had ambient air monitoring conducted by the EPA, despite several requests for such measurements made by the Illinois congressional delegation,” the letter stated. “These requests come with even more urgency after it was shown that the concentrations of EtO around the Sterigenics facility significantly decreased after the Illinois EPA shut down the use of EtO at the facility in mid-February by a seal order.”

It pointedly added: “The EPA is taking too long to move forward with an action to protect communities surrounding ethylene-oxide facilities. That is why we urge the EPA to immediately begin an EtO emissions inspection at all Region 5 facilities, for both fugitive and stack emissions, and make these inspection data publicly available.” The letter demanded the testing be conducted “as soon as possible.”

The letter was sent to EPA Region 5 Administrator Cathy Stepp, a Trump-administration appointee who previously ran a Wisconsin construction firm before being appointed by former Gov. Scott Walker to head the state’s Department of Natural Resources, where she established a reputation for rolling back environmental regulations and business oversights.

Stepp ran afoul of Duckworth and Durbin last year when she canceled three straight meetings with the senators. Duckworth later charged while questioning EPA head Andrew Wheeler that “EPA Regional Administrator Cathy Stepp and other political appointees are working to undermine” the agency’s mission. The two senators jointly charged the Trump administration earlier this year with blocking enforcement of EtO regulations.

The grassroots groups Stop Sterigenics and Stop EtO have been lobbying in Springfield to pass a bill to regulate EtO emissions.