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.
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