* Remember this story?…
Two low-slung industrial buildings, tucked behind a Target store in west suburban Willowbrook, are about as nondescript as they come. For years, they have been home to Sterigenics International, a company that has quietly gone about its business of fumigating medical instruments, pharmaceutical drugs and food to kill bacteria and pests.
But a new federal study is putting a bright spotlight on the company, finding that people living nearby face some the nation’s highest cancer risks from toxic air pollution.
A gas used by the company, ethylene oxide, is far more dangerous than previously thought, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In one census tract near the plant, the EPA estimates the risk of cancer is more than nine times the national average.
Another federal agency concluded the cancer risks could be significantly higher. […]
The company also stands out because since 2011 it has been owned by a private equity firm co-founded by Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, who left the firm a year later to begin campaigning for public office. […]
“This is not an emergency. This is not a public health immediate crisis. This is something we are managing,” Rauner told reporters after a bill-signing event in Chicago. “We are going to work with the federal government to monitor this whole situation … and try to reduce exposures from this as much as we can.” [Emphasis added.]
* As Anders Lindall pointed out, the governor still has a personal stake in that company…
* Today, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, who represents Willowbrook, introduced this bill…
Provides that a facility emitting ethylene oxide at levels higher than federal or State standards shall immediately cease operations until the level of emissions are reduced below both federal and State standards. [Emphasis added.]
The leader apparently disagrees with the governor that this situation is “not an emergency.”
And while I seriously doubt that the bill is a direct result of Rauner throwing him under the bus at the Daily Herald yesterday, I don’t doubt that it probably felt just a wee bit satisfying to file this bill today.
*** UPDATE 1 *** Press release…
State Sen. John Curran (R-Downers Grove) is joining local officials, including House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) and Willowbrook Mayor Frank Trilla, in calling on Sterigenics International, Inc. to cease operations until further testing is completed.
“Recent news reports and discussions at a town meeting this past week have many people, myself included, greatly concerned about the safe operation of the Sterigenics facility. New research from the USEPA indicates that ethylene oxide is far more dangerous to the public than previously believed,” said Curran. “Given the new revelations about the dangers of ethylene oxide, I join with those encouraging Sterigenics to cease operations at the Willowbrook facility until further testing is done.”
The letter sent to the company on Friday, which was signed by state, local and municipal officials (see attached), notes that it is “imperative that the community be assured that Sterigenics is acting as a good corporate citizen and are taking all steps necessary to protect those who are potentially impacted by the emissions of ethylene oxide from their facility.”
Curran says today’s letter is just a first step in addressing the concerns residents have about this facility. “Next week I intend to file legislation in the Illinois Senate that will create new notification protocols that will alert surrounding property owners of an air emission leak, reopen the company’s current air permit for additional public comment and expand the public comment period for any future permit renewals.”
Throughout this process, Curran has also been conferring with the Attorney General, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Environmental Protection Agency and will continue working with them to make sure they have all regulatory and enforcement tools necessary to protect the public health and safety.
*** UPDATE 2 *** Oof…
*** UPDATE 3 *** From the Illinois EPA…
Under current law, should Sterigenics, or any other permitted facility, violate any condition of its permit such as an emissions standard, the Illinois EPA would initiate appropriate action, whether that be enforcement or other corrective action. The type of action depends upon the nature and severity of the violation. If such a violation involved an imminent threat to human health or the environment, the Agency would send that matter to the Attorney General for enforcement, including immediate injunctive relief.
And they’re not making that referral because the company is currently in compliance with both state and federal environmental regulations.