Illinois Environmental Protection Agency officials began testing water from wells in suburban Willowbrook Thursday, amid the controversy over potentially cancer-causing air emissions from the nearby Sterigenics facility.
There are nearly 20,000 people living near the Sterigenics plant, which has operated in Willowbrook since 1984 and has in the past released elevated levels of ethylene oxide, federal health officials said.
In August the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services notified the village that the toxic gas being emitted from Sterigenics was a health hazard that posed an elevated risk, a revelation that led to at least 11 lawsuits being filed against the company.
Illinois EPA officials, along with the DuPage County Health Department, began taking water samples from area homes on Thursday which will be sent to an independent lab for analysis of ethylene oxide and ethylene glycol levels.
The testing - done at all residences near the facility that granted access, and at no cost to homeowners - will provide information for residents and health officials in "identifying groundwater contamination of wells used for drinking water in the area," the EPA said in a statement.
"I'm very concerned because we are literally three blocks away from there," Willowbrook resident Virginia Crafton said. She lives within one mile of the Sterigenics facility and said she's just about ready to move away from her home.
"I love it here, I love Willowbrook, I love the school district, but I will not put my daughter in jeopardy," Crafton said.
Dan Bertolucci's home is one of 70 undergoing testing of the well water.
"The concerns are, is it safe to drink? To be consumed by me or any of the animals I live with?" he asked Thursday. "And that’s really the reason I responded to the letter that came out and here I am today with someone here sampling."
"Sterigenics is committed to working with officials to reassure the community that it is safe," the company said in a statement. "We support the ILEPA’s water testing and all reasonable efforts by the ILEPA to allay the concerns of the community."