Sterigenics Willowbrook facility could reopen after company says deal reached with state

WILLOWBROOK, Ill. (WLS) -- Sterigenics said Wednesday it has reached a deal with the state of Illinois to resume operations at its southwest suburban Willowbrook facility.

The company, which sterilizes medical equipment, has operated in Willowbrook since 1984.

The facility has been shut down since late 2018 because of concerns about its emissions of ethylene oxide, a carcinogenic chemical. Testing showed dangerous levels of the chemical in the air in a radius around the Sterigenics plant.

Sterigenics said the deal ends all litigation and enforcement actions with the state and enables it to resume operations upon approval by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and requires the installation of additional emission capture and control equipment that will allow the facility to meet the state's new standards for ethylene oxide.

Many in the Willowbrook community, even some state politicians, were caught off guard by the settlement, and vowed to go to court to fight it.

"We are just getting started and we still have a lot of fight left in us," said Margie Donnell with the group Stop Sterigenics.

According to a news release from the Illinois Attorney Generals office, "The net effect of the requirements in the proposed consent order will be to reduce the EtO emissions from Sterigenics' Willowbrook facility to no more than 85 pounds per year. This represents a drastic reduction from Sterigenics' reported annual emissions from 2006 to 2018, which ranged from 2,840 pounds to 7,340 pounds per year."

"To count on them to fulfill anything that they say in that consent order is foolish and we do not trust them at all," said Stop Sterigenics member Lauren Kaeseberg. "To have them reopen and emit 'a little bit that we think is OK,' that's not OK."

Under the agreement, Sterigenics is not found liable or at fault in any of the state's court cases. They will need to implement new emissions capture and control equipment and fund $300,000 in community projects designed to benefit the environment and community, which will be developed in coordination with the state.

"We don't want your $300,000, we want you out of here. Put it to the moving vans and the cost of relocating to another facility," Kaeseberg said.

"They've destroyed my livelihood, my health, and the value of our home. It's a triple whammy. Sterigenics has got to go," said Jana Conev, Willowbrook resident and cancer patient.

A statement from Governor JB Pritzker's office said in part, "Our top priority remains the health and safety of every citizen...The consent order that will be signed as part of the litigation creates detailed, enforceable mandates that Sterigenics must comply with if it seeks to do business in Illinois."

There will be a hearing about the Sterigenics lawsuit Thursday morning in DuPage County Court. The settlement could be decided as early as then. Opposition groups will be there to push back.

A judge still needs to approve the deal.

Previous coverage:

RELATED: Lake County officials measuring levels of cancer-causing ethylene oxide
RELATED: EPA: Residents within 1.5 miles of Sterigenics plant had up to 10x higher risk of cancer
RELATED: Hearing held on Sterigenics lawsuit as residents fight to permanently close plant
RELATED: Higher rates of cancer detected near Sterigenics, Illinois Department of Public Health study finds

RELATED: EPA tests shows rapid drop in cancer-causing chemicals following Willowbrook Sterigenics closure
RELATED: Judge denies Sterigenics temporary restraining order, Willowbrook facility remains closed
RELATED: Sterigenics files emergency motion to reopen Willowbrook facility
RELATED: Willowbrook Sterigenics plant shut down Friday night
RELATED: Lawmakers join call to stop Sterigenics from operating in Willowbrook
RELATED: Willowbrook residents call for Sterigenics shutdown after latest tests
RELATED: Group releases 1984 EPA letter about cancer-causing chemical in Willowbrook
RELATED: Water tested for cancer-causing chemical near Sterigenics plant in Willowbrook
RELATED: New EPA data reveals cancer-causing chemical still present near Sterigenics
RELATED: Sterigenics lawsuit goes to court Thursday, EPA holds packed forum in Willowbrook

RELATED: Sterigenics air quality measurements flawed, EPA says
RELATED: 2 Lake County medical manufacturing plants' toxic emissions cause concern
RELATED: Illinois AG files lawsuit against Sterigenics over alleged toxic air pollution violations
RELATED: Lisa Madigan: Rauner's office hid health dangers of Willowbrook Sterigenics plant for months
RELATED: Illinois EPA orders Sterigenics to cease operations in Willowbrook until safety review complete
RELATED: EPA to test air quality after Sterigenics emissions concerns
RELATED: Andrea Thome believes carcinogenic emissions from Sterigenics in Willowbrook sickened family
RELATED: Willowbrook residents rally, demand gas-emitting company shut down
RELATED: Angry Willowbrook residents pack meeting on carcinogenic gas
RELATED: Willowbrook residents concerned about emission of carcinogenic gas from local company
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