With two Waukegan facilities using ethylene oxide - a cancer-causing gas that temporarily shut down a Sterigenics facility in Willowbrook following emissions testing in the area - the Chicago suburb is calling for monitoring.
Waukegan’s mayor announced a recent victory approving 90 days of monitoring from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, noting that “people of Lake County felt like we were not getting the same level of concern as people in other communities.”
The monitoring will take place outside the Medline plant and Vantage Specialty Chemical facility in the northern suburb.
“I want you all to know that we are all concerned about ethylene oxide emissions,” state Sen. Melinda Bush said Monday while announcing a town hall for residents to learn about state efforts on the matter and voice their opinions.
Both companies now being monitored are facing lawsuits of their use of the gas.
In a statement, Medline said it has “always operated in compliance with all laws and regulations, have always operated at or below our permitted levels, and plan to defend any suits vigorously.”
Vantage did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“We deserve answers as to what is in the air that we breathe,” said Lake County Board Chairman Sandy Hart. “What do these emissions mean for the families and employees who live nearby?”
Despite new, more stringent state regulations on ethylene oxide emissions, lawmakers say they aren’t sure if there is a safe level.
Meanwhile, a judge earlier this month approved a plan allowing Sterigenics to reopen in Willowbrook. The decision followed an agreement between the company and Attorney General Kwame Raoul and DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin. Sterigenics will need to reapply for a permit with the Illinois EPA, however, as well as install new emissions control equipment.
Nearly three dozen people, including NBC 5 news anchor Rob Stafford, have also sued the operator of the medical equipment cleaning plant, claiming it emits fumes that have adversely affected their health. A Sterigenics spokesperson has said the company believes the claims lack merit and plans to vigorously defend against them.