A county judge in Illinois has delayed ruling on an agreement that would allow Sterigenics to reopen its sterilization facility in Willowbrook (a Chicago suburb). The plant has been prohibited from using ethylene oxide in its sterilization processes since the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency found in February that it had released high levels of ethylene oxide, a cancer-causing chemical.
According to local press reports, the judge delayed ruling on the consent agreement between DuPage County and Sterigenics to give four municipalities surrounding the sterilization plant time to provide input on the matter. The judge ruled on July 24 that the municipalities of Darien, Burr Ridge, Hinsdale, and Willowbrook could be added as a party to a legal proceeding on the consent order; those municipalities have one month to submit a brief outlining their reasons for opposing the sterilization plant's reopening. Sterigenics and the DuPage County State Attorney General's Office will then have one week to reply to the brief, according to The Daily Herald. Thus, Sept. 6 is the earliest possible date a decision could be made on the matter.
Under terms of a consent agreement between Sterigenics and the State of Illinois, the company will install additional emission capture and control equipment that will enable the Willowbrook facility to meet the new, stringent standards set by Illinois for ethylene oxide (EO) sterilization. In addition, Sterigenics has agreed to fund $300,000 in community projects designed to benefit the environment and the local community, to be developed in coordination with the state.
Sterigenics has also agreed to reduce EO usage at the Willowbrook facility and to a combination of continuous emission monitoring, emission stack testing, and ambient air monitoring to ensure and to demonstrate that the additional controls are working. The Sterigenics Willowbrook facility will resume operations upon approval by the IL EPA following the installation of the new controls.
Willowbrook Mayor Frank Trilla called the judge's latest ruling "a win" for his municipality, telling the Herald that it gives the public "a voice at the table."
Sterigenics released the following statement in response to the ruling: “We are confident that the Consent Order will be approved in due course. Our Willowbrook operations have consistently complied with and outperformed the state’s requirements and we are committed to abiding by the new requirements established by the state. Sterigenics will continue to take the necessary steps to resume operations at Willowbrook and remains committed to acting in the interest of the community, our employees, our customers and the patients and hospitals we serve every day.”