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Question of the day

Monday, Feb 11, 2019

* Remember when Gov. Rauner declared the Sterigenics poisoning in and around Willowbrook was not a “public health emergency?” Some folks battling the company are saying that Gov. Pritzker should declare such an emergency. From state statutes

“Public health emergency” means an occurrence or imminent threat of an illness or health condition that:

    (a) is believed to be caused by any of the following … widespread exposure to an infectious or toxic agent that poses a significant risk of substantial future harm to a large number of people in the affected population.

* From the definition of “disaster”

Sec. 4. Definitions. As used in this Act, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise, the following words and terms have the meanings ascribed to them in this Section […]

    “Disaster” means an occurrence or threat of widespread or severe damage, injury or loss of life or property resulting from any natural or technological cause, including but not limited to fire, flood, earthquake, wind, storm, hazardous materials spill or other water contamination requiring emergency action to avert danger or damage, epidemic, air contamination, blight, extended periods of severe and inclement weather, drought, infestation, critical shortages of essential fuels and energy, explosion, riot, hostile military or paramilitary action, public health emergencies, or acts of domestic terrorism. [Emphasis added.]

* From the governor’s enumerated powers during a declared disaster

20 ILCS 3305/7) (from Ch. 127, par. 1057)

Sec. 7. Emergency Powers of the Governor. In the event of a disaster, as defined in Section 4, the Governor may, by proclamation declare that a disaster exists. Upon such proclamation, the Governor shall have and may exercise for a period not to exceed 30 days the following emergency powers; provided, however, that the lapse of the emergency powers shall not, as regards any act or acts occurring or committed within the 30-day period, deprive any person, firm, corporation, political subdivision, or body politic of any right or rights to compensation or reimbursement which he, she, it, or they may have under the provisions of this Act:

    (1) To suspend the provisions of any regulator statute prescribing procedures for conduct of State business, or the orders, rules and regulations of any State agency, if strict compliance with the provisions of any statute, order, rule, or regulation would in any way prevent, hinder or delay necessary action, including emergency purchases, by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, in coping with the disaster.

    (2) To utilize all available resources of the State government as reasonably necessary to cope with the disaster and of each political subdivision of the State.

    (3) To transfer the direction, personnel or functions of State departments and agencies or units thereof for the purpose of performing or facilitating disaster response and recovery programs.

    (4) On behalf of this State to take possession of, and to acquire full title or a lesser specified interest in, any personal property as may be necessary to accomplish the objectives set forth in Section 2 of this Act, including: airplanes, automobiles, trucks, trailers, buses, and other vehicles; coal, oils, gasoline, and other fuels and means of propulsion; explosives, materials, equipment, and supplies; animals and livestock; feed and seed; food and provisions for humans and animals; clothing and bedding; and medicines and medical and surgical supplies; and to take possession of and for a limited period occupy and use any real estate necessary to accomplish those objectives; but only upon the undertaking by the State to pay just compensation therefor as in this Act provided

* The Question: Should the governor declare a “public health emergency” disaster in order to shut down Sterigenics? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please…

web survey

Also, if I see evidence of outside tampering with this poll I will delete it.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Grandson of Man - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 12:29 pm:

    Yes, absolutely. Not taking decisive and effective action will be a bad mark on Pritzker’s record.

  2. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 12:31 pm:

    Voted “Yes”.

    You campaign on the plant dangers and the dangers of the plant still operating, you use your powers specific to this problem and move forward.

  3. - 47th Ward - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 12:31 pm:

    No, not yet. But he should threaten to do so, loudly and soon.

  4. - Blue Dog Dem - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 12:32 pm:

    Voted no. Don’t want them to shut down because I am afraid they may move to southern Illinois. But seriously, if nothing else, the states top executives should , in cooperation with the company, have an immediate third party report prepared. And I mean immediate.

  5. - What's in a name? - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 12:44 pm:

    It certainly looks like it fits within the statutory language. How do you not err on the side of caution.

  6. - Louis G. Atsaves - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 12:44 pm:

    The Governor should jawbone the issue but not take personal action. He has an ILEPA agency as well as the Fed EPA to lead the charge. His appointments to the ILEPA should send a strong signal.

  7. - wordslinger - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 12:46 pm:

    Yes. In fact, Pritzker’s rhetoric on Sterigenics during the campaign demands it.

    Pritzker on twitter, 10-8-18:

    –Sterigenics should be completely shut down until we determine it can operate safely. Our top priority must always be keeping communities safe.–

    Live up to your promises, do your job. You can’t run and hide from this one. Don’t let this be your Quincy.

  8. - Anonymous - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 12:49 pm:

    Voted no. We’re not ready to do that before we know what happens to all those medical facilities that rely on Sterigenics for sterilization. Not dismissing the issue for neighbors but there could be unintended consequences.

  9. - Big Jer - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 12:54 pm:

    Voted Yes. This has been going on for months if not much longer. The US and it’s states have a long history of twiddling their thumbs on public safety issues.

    In the mid 90’s I worked part time as a telephone interviewer for the NORC ( National Opinion Research Center). One of the projects I worked on was locating people who had been affected by the Hanford Iodine leak disaster. I talked to many people who had cancer across generations because nothing was done about the Hanford issue. The called themselves the Hanford Downwinders.

    Sterigenics does not seem on the same level of scope as Hanford but still.

    My guess is that if this was in Europe then Sterigenics would have been shutdown months ago. But in the US it is mostly profits over people.

  10. - Perrid - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 12:56 pm:

    I voted yes, the US EPA basically said they don’t expect to learn anything different but they have to dot some i’s and cross some t’s before they can shut it down. To me, there’s due process and then there’s necessary red tape.

    To specifics though: I assume you’d want the governor to “take possession” of the plant for 30 days, and shut it down? And then pay Sterigenics for the privilege of shutting them down? Can they then start it up again after 30 days, if the EPA hasn’t taken action? That’s my reading of number 4, if my reading comprehension is bad I apologize. That’s not ideal.

  11. - Chicagonk - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 12:58 pm:

    Voted no on the condition that the situation is immediately addressed by Sterigenics. I know for a fact that there are healthcare clients of Sterigenics that would not be able to find another place in the short term to sterilize their equipment. I do think that this has gotten a lot more notoriety due to the fact that GTCR was involved considering there are plenty of industrial locations all over Illinois that have arguably much higher carcinogenic emissions than the Sterigenics plant.

  12. - Bobby Beagle - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 1:03 pm:

    - Chicagonk - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 12:58 pm:
    “I do think that this has gotten a lot more notoriety due to the fact that GTCR was involved considering there are plenty of industrial locations all over Illinois that have arguably much higher carcinogenic emissions than the Sterigenics plant. ”

    In fact, your statement about carcinogenic emissions is false. According to the Federal EPA’s annual emissions inventory, EtO emitters along I55 have resulted in by far the largest and most serious carcinogenic emissions area in our state.

    Please take a moment to view the map and review the data yourself:

  13. - What's in a name? - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 1:05 pm:

    If you are running a health facility and haven’t made a plan for the shut down of Sterigenics you have to be daft. You can see this coming a mile away.

    Also, the place could burn down tomorrow, you need to have a plan.

  14. - Groundhog Day - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 1:12 pm:

    Also, the technical definition of an Epidemic: refers to an increase, often sudden, in the number of cases of a disease above what is normally expected in that population in that area.

    Does not have to be sudden. The cancer outbreak is an epidemic. Shut them down now.

  15. - Jocko - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 1:18 pm:

    Voted yes. According to Google, lawsuits were filed? Why haven’t the complainants (or the judge) sought an injunction?

  16. - Lo - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 1:36 pm:

    Gov Pritzker should provide the affected community with some assurance, at least, about his continued commitment to fulfilling that campaign promise. How infuriating to feel used during the campaign and then crickets now that he’s elected. This is an every day crisis for the people living next to Sterigenics. Good corporate behavior (is that an oxymoron?) would be to leave the community and go operate somewhere that is NOT in proximity to a school.

  17. - Sri Rao - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 1:37 pm:

    Yes - The levels reported in the USEPA’s latest round of testing were over 350 times the EPA’S actionable requirements. If the USEPA is unwilling to protect us, the Governor needs to keep his promise and fulfill his oath to protect and defend the people of the State of Illinois. We have had testing by 2 different 3rd party companies performed for both the Village and the USEPA. This testing has been ongoing for nearly 3 months.

    For those worried about a disruption of supplies, are the lives of our children and our families worth less than someone else’s?

    I implore Governor Pritzker to please shut it down!

  18. - A Jack - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 1:42 pm:

    As much as I wanted to vote yes, I voted no. I don’t think a public health emergency declaration is the way to go. This is a serious crisis though, and the ILEPA should be inspecting the site on a daily basis to check for any operational irregularities. In fact, a team of ILEPA inspectors should be camped out on the site.

  19. - Lizzyd - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 1:45 pm:

    I can not say less then what as been said. But when I look at the numbers and the children that live here I can only pray you stop this till we have the full version. California did the right thing. We need to save our children from this.

  20. - Microbefiend - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 1:47 pm:

    My vote is yes. This company has been on notice since it applied for its permit in 1984. Back then the IEPA was concerned about emissions that were modeled to result in approximately the same ambient concentrations as are measured today. Back then, emission were uncontrolled. Now, with controls that are presumably state of the art, the amount residents are exposed to is the same. Every few years, concerns about emissions have surfaced in news reporting and are quietly silenced. In 2016 when IRIS safety information was updated, EOSA lobbied strongly to prevent the update. This company has shown itself to be incapable of operating safely.

    The medical industry has also been on notice for decades. A representative at the IL House hearing back in October made clear that when he was working in medicine in the 1980’s it was well known that EtO should be extremely limited in use. To say that medicine and this company have not had notice and have not had time to respond is completely inaccurate. Decades of inaction are finally coming to a tipping point. Shutting down one location would force the industry and medicine generally to actually take these well supported concerns seriously and change the culture from profits over people to actual protection of residents’ health.

  21. - RNUG - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 1:52 pm:

    Didn’t vote. Threaten first, put daily my bitoring in place, then shut them down if they don’t clean up their act.

  22. - Megan - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 1:56 pm:

    My family and I live within a 3 minute walking distance from Sterigenics. We built this home to raise a family. My baby was born prematurely and I can’t help but wonder if this company had anything to do with the preterm birth. It was terrifying bringing home my incredibly tiny, premature child knowing that the air he is breathing is potentially TOXIC. I am a prisoner in my own home. We can’t open the windows or simply go for a walk. I am constantly worried that my son and family will be or have been affected by this. Not to mention the several neighbors on my block alone that have CANCER after living here for years. Please, shut them down.

  23. - Kargon - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 2:07 pm:

    I’ve lived in Willowbrook for over 20 years, and moved to this location to raise a family in a eco-friendly, and safe neighborhood. After learning about the numerous health problems encountered by Willowbrook residents, I’m shocked that Sterogenics continues to be in operation. Without government regulations and accountability for companies like Sterogenics innocent residents will suffer life threatening health problems. They will also have to endure emotional, medical, and financial hardships as a result of negligent behavior. As responsible community members we vote for elected officials that will uphold the law, and be our voice in times of crisis.

  24. - Klaus VonBulow - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 2:07 pm:

    I voted yes. They should move to Wisconsin I hear they have plenty of room for a business like this.

    Has the IEPA spokesman even commented on this? Where are all the Agencies spokesmen? Are the executive agencies prepared for issues such as this? The last four years these agencies have been gutted and filled with political hacks and bloated with no show contractors.

    Governor start working on fixing these agencies and cleaning up the problems of the past four years.

    If you get a minimum-wage hike will your labor board be able to enforce it?

  25. - Neighbor - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 2:07 pm:

    Yes, they should be shut down immediately. Sterigenics has been polluting the air with a known carcinogen, ETo, since the mid 80’s. This facility is within a mile of schools, park districts, childcare centers and neighbors.

  26. - Bill F. - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 2:13 pm:

    Yes. Or at the very least, show the level of urgency Rauner refused to. This is smack in the middle of a relatively dense suburban area.

  27. - Concerned Mama - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 2:17 pm:

    Testing has been done, the science is in. Any chemical that is known to mutate genes and cause cancer, has been linked with a long list of health problems, and has been detected in schools and playgrounds several hundred times the EPA limit of what is acceptable for human contact should be restricted from use in a heavily populated area. Exposure to babies and children is especially dangerous, and when there are schools and daycares nearby, this plant needs to be shut down. There are other alternatives to using EtO.

  28. - Red Skeptic - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 2:22 pm:

    What concerns me is how long this has taken. The governor heavily criticized Rauner for not taking swift action. I would of thought that this would be one of the first set of announcements.

  29. - Environ - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 2:25 pm:

    Voted yes, shut it down. With the definition of Public health emergency (a) state statues it should be automatic to shut Sterigenics down and along with the multitude of other contaminating and willful destructive factories. The agencies knew this and let them continue. Are they the Environmental Pollution Agency or the Environmental “Protection” Agency?

    This is what IL EPA mission statement says, “The mission of the Illinois EPA is to safeguard environmental quality, consistent with the social and economic needs of the State, so as to protect health, welfare, property and the quality of life. Illinois EPA works to safeguard the state’s natural resources from pollution to provide a healthy environment for its citizens. By partnering with businesses, local governments and citizens, Illinois EPA is dedicated to continued protection of the air we breathe and our water and land resources.” EPA needs to re-read this statement and adhere to it for the sake of all Illinois residents.

    We all need clean air and water to survive.

  30. - Cassie - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 2:40 pm:

    Shut down Steregenics

  31. - Robert - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 2:41 pm:

    Voted yes. Pritzker made an explicit promise to shut it down. Since then, evidence has emerged that Sterigenics violated the permits/regs they managed to buy from the state. They disabled their internal safety systems, simply opened the doors to the outside to vent EtO overflows, squeegeed EtO and ethylene glycol into the public sewer, and operated at least 3 illegal offsite aeration facilities, one of them right next to a school. There is no amount of emission controls or monitoring that will establish trust in Sterigenics. This facility has apparently been run as crudely as one might expect of the mafia. Many, many shoes left to drop.

  32. - WillowbrookMom - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 2:45 pm:

    Any child breathing up to 350 times the EPA actionable amount of a class 1 carcinogen is an emergency. Any person breathing a chemical that mutates their genes day in and day out is an emergency even if they do not actually become ill today. Yes, shut them down. Yes, today. Testing has shown dangerous levels in the schools. If this we lead or azbestos there would be action but because this is a chemical most people had never heard of before August 2018 most officials with authority to fix this are wringing their hands asking for more testing. We have enough testing to know this is injuring people every day and this is a public health emergency. Also there are other less toxic ways to sterilize.

  33. - Big Boy Pants - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 3:10 pm:

    Voted no. The case against Sterigenics has always been suspect. Suit filed in October, first status hearing not until end of February. If case was strong and truly an emergency, case would have been expedited. The USEPA screwed up their underlying risk assessment - set risk value at least 500 times lower than background levels throughout Chicagoland area and then admitted they screwed up their original sampling around Willowbrook. As a result the USEPA’s bumbling, a lot of people are rightfully frightened and calling for action. USEPA created unnecessary mess which will have significant ramifications on the health care industry after Sterigenics closes.

  34. - Resident - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 3:45 pm:

    Voted no, you need a longer term solution for 2 reasons

    1. The Feb 5th US EPA update doesn’t support immediate action and the courts will overturn it. “Despite the additional data, monitoring information about ethylene oxide in the Willowbrook area remains limited. It remains premature to draw conclusions about long-term health risks from the data”

    2. Despite comments to the contrary, closing this facility down would impact the supply of sterilized medical products because of regulatory oversight of this process.

  35. - wordslinger - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 3:49 pm:

    –What concerns me is how long this has taken. The governor heavily criticized Rauner for not taking swift action.–

    He did more than that. Pritzker explicitly said Sterigenics should be shut down.

  36. - Huh? - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 3:49 pm:

    Voted yes.

    1.4% refused to close the plant because he had a vested interest in the operation of the facility.

    As noted by Wordslinger, Pritzker made it a campaign issue. Pritzker had better pull the big boy pants on and close the plant for the health of the community.

    Hook or crook, whether by ILEPA action or executive order the plant has to be closed.

  37. - Going nuclear - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 3:52 pm:

    Voted no. The Governor should push for a temporary shutdown and negotiate for significant emissions reductions and more government oversight (e.g., recordkeeping and monitoring) to ensure the plant can operate safely over time.

  38. - Kim - Monday, Feb 11, 19 @ 4:17 pm:

    Voted yes, the children should not have to breathe this any longer. Frankly I’m shocked the epa hasn’t shut them down, no more testing is needed,

  39. - SR - Wednesday, Feb 13, 19 @ 1:08 pm:

    This needs to be shut down immediately. The EPA has Lomé about these emissions and has done nothing.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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