State, federal EPA at odds over Sterigenics shutdown
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. EPA are at odds regarding the shutdown of portions of Sterigenics in Willowbrook.
The U.S. EPA has been monitoring the site for ethylene oxide and posted a report on Feb. 5 encouraging a more cautious approach to in Willowbrook.
"[M]onitoring information about ethylene oxide in the Willowbrook area remains limited," the U.S. EPA reported. "It remains premature to draw conclusions about long-term health risks from the data."
However, Illinois EPA Director John Kim issued a seal order on Feb. 15 to seal off portions of the facility despite the federal EPA reconsideration and an expert review from an air specialist.
"The Seal Order restricts access to the ethylene oxide storage vessels so as to preclude introduction of ethylene oxide into a sterilization chamber," the press release states. "Only persons authorized, in writing, by the Director of the Illinois EPA may access the sealed vessels to conduct activities within the scope of their specified authorization."
Last year, Richard J. Trzupek, an air quality specialist, told the DuPage Policy Journal that the air quality was fine in Willowbrook.
Trzupek also claimed Chicago Tribune reporter Michael Hawthorne of causing some of the hysteria associated with the emissions, claiming Hawthorne has "demonized" Sterigenics for its use of ethylene oxide.
Earlier this month, Trzupek called the Chicago Tribune's reporting on the Willowbrook facility and the emissions "irresponsible," after a story was published Feb. 6 in the Chicago Tribune by Hawthorne, according to the DuPage Policy Journal.
"You can twist findings to make a scary story out of any one of the 187 hazardous emissions monitored by the EPA," Trzupek, referring to the February 6 Chicago Tribune story, told the DuPage Policy Journal. "That’s what they’ve done."
The Illinois EPA and U.S. EPA have been working to reduce the amount of ethylene oxide emitting from the Willowbrook plant and the Illinois EPA and the state's Attorney General's Office have also had discussions with Sterigenics to discuss the reduction of emissions, according to the press release.
The U.S. EPA monitored air quality in Willowbrook on 12 separate days between Nov. 25 and Dec. 28, according to the EPA's website. The U.S. EPA was looking at ethylene oxide emissions in the air.
The Illinois EPA issued the seal order to prevent the "commencement of any new sterilization cycles" that use ethylene oxide and to prevent those emissions from harming the Willowbrook community, according to a press release on the state's website.
The seal order will remain in effect until it is rescinded by Kim.
Former Gov. Bruce Rauner's private equity fund is a part owner of the Sterigenics facility.