Sterigenics Settlement: Controversial Company Gets Green Light from Judge

A DuPage County judge signed off on a consent order Friday allowing for Sterigenics to reopen but with stricter emissions controls.

State lawmakers, mayors and residents have all pushed back against the reopening of the controversial plant which uses a toxic chemical – ruled by the federal government as a carcinogen – to sterilize medical equipment. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency issued a seal order on the company Feb. 15, effectively shutting it down until the matter was settled.

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In a statement about the ruling, Sterigenics said, in part, that during the proceedings, “the Court noted that the State has acknowledged that there is no uncertainty that Sterigenics has operated in compliance with federal standards regarding its ethylene oxide (EO) emissions. Further, the State indicated in its briefing that compliance with the Consent Order and the new Illinois law regarding EO sterilization ‘will ensure that [EO] emissions from the [Willowbrook] Site are negligible and not a public health hazard.’”

But reopening the facility is not a fait accompli, according to Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul.

“To be clear, nothing within the consent order guarantees that the Willowbrook facility will reopen in the immediate future – or that it will reopen at all,” Raoul said in a statement. “Under the consent order, Sterigenics’ Willowbrook facility is strictly prohibited from resuming sterilization operations until it constructs new emissions control systems that have been reviewed and approved by the Illinois EPA. The Attorney General’s office, the State’s Attorney’s office and the court will be closely monitoring each step Sterigenics takes to potentially reopen.”

And now, Republican leader Rep. Jim Durkin has introduced a bill that would allow localities to decide for themselves whether to permit companies to use ethylene oxide. 

One community group, Stop Sterigenics, is disappointed by the settlement that could possibly allow Sterigenics to reopen. 

“It’s insane to me that you can have a city or town have the authority to ban the sale of marijuana under the new law, or ban a strip club, but they don’t have the power to ban this explosive and toxic substance? That just doesn’t make sense,” said Lauren Kaeseberg, a spokeswoman for the group. “So, I think the legislature should give communities the right to regulate what’s in their borders, for sure.”

Kaeseberg and Raoul join “Chicago Tonight” for a conversation. Durkin and Sterigenics declined our invitation to appear on the show.

Related stories:

Sterigenics Opponents Fight Proposed Deal to Reopen Plant

Illinois EPA Shuts Down Suburban Sterigenics Plant

No Contamination Found in Water Near Sterigenics’ Willowbrook Plant

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