Last Friday at 5pm, the Illinois EPA released several decisions paving the way for Sterigenics to resume emitting cancer-causing ethylene oxide into southeast DuPage and southwest Cook Counties.
It has been a tortured and tumultuous year for Willowbrook and area residents who have been fighting to prohibit further emissions into their community. In fact, in the heat of the 2018 election season, nearly a year ago to the day, Christian Mitchell, now Deputy Governor, launched a tweet as he campaigned for then-Candidate Pritzker, criticizing Governor Bruce Rauner for allowing Sterigenics to continue “pouring cancer causing pollutants into the air.” Mr. Mitchell requested at that time that members of the community affected by Sterigenics join him outside the Thompson Center for a press conference denouncing the corporate polluter and then-Gov. Rauner’s failure to act.
Now as Deputy Governor, Christian Mitchell oversees the Illinois EPA. Yet, this past Friday, Sterigenics was granted a construction permit by the IEPA which puts them on a clear path to reopening.
Citizen groups have led the charge since learning about this toxic chemical and its links to the cancer clusters in their area. Citizens continue to fight and urge the administration to leave the politics out of this issue.
After legislation passed last session, dubbed the Matt Haller Act after a local young father who died from stomach cancer believed to be caused by Sterigenics, that legislation failed to protect the local citizens (evinced by the current posture of the permit and the recent settlement reached between Sterigenics and the AG and the DuPage County State’s Attorney). For months, the citizens of the affected areas have been battered around like a political ping pong ball. Between Gov. Pritzker, Deputy Governor Christian Mitchell and local representatives including House Minority Leader Jim Durkin and State Senator John Curran, there have been countless press releases, public statements, and even letters back and forth obtained through FOIA. These communities deserve better than the current climate.
Today, residents from Cook, DuPage, and Lake Counties join together with environmental and social justice organizations and challenge Governor Pritzker to stand by his commitment to pass the strictest legislation on ethylene oxide. Their bill, HB3888, filed by Representative Rita Mayfield of Waukegan and supported by a broad bi-partisan coalition of legislators, calls for the phase out of emissions for sterilization plants and hospitals, and places caps on other forms of emissions in densely populated areas and near schools.
Additionally, HB3885, filed by Leader Durkin, provides home rule municipalities with the abillity to ban ethylene oxide within their boundaries. As has been quipped, if a town can ban smoking or adult entertainment venues, it only seems fair to give towns the ability to ban a substance that their constituents see as a killer.
“Protection from toxic, cancer causing emissions is a human right. It is a protection that every resident of Illinois deserves. We call upon our leadership in the administration to pass HB3888 and HB3885 and stand with us in declaring that the health and safety of all comes first,” said Gabriela Tejeda-Rios, a member of Stop Sterigenics.
The legislation is expected to be heard during Veto session this October. The community groups plan to be in Springfield during the process to ensure their voices are heard, even late on a Friday night.
As I told subscribers this morning, the tactic worked. Nobody covered the IEPA permit decision.