Sterigenics Allowed to Reopen Under New Agreement, Judge Rules

Sterigenics will be allowed to reopen in a Chicago suburb after it was shut down by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency due to due to emissions of a cancer-causing gas in neighborhoods surrounding the plant, a judge ruled Friday. 

The decision comes after a recent 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. 

"The consent order gives our offices the tools to act quickly to protect the community and hold Sterigenics accountable for any future violations of Illinois' new ethylene oxide restrictions or other state environmental laws," Raoul and Berlin said in a joint statement. "To be clear, nothing within the consent order guarantees that the Willowbrook facility will reopen in the immediate future - or that it will reopen at all. Under the consent order, Sterigenics' Willowbrook facility is trictly prohibited from resuming sterilization operations until it cosntructs new emissions control systems that have been reviewed and approved by the Illinois EPA." 

When the agreement was announced, Sterigenics president Philip Macnabb said resolution of the matter puts the company a step closer to resuming the work of sterilizing vital medical products and devices for patients in Illinois and beyond.

Several communities, including Willowbrook, Darien, and Burr Ridge, joined together and filed a motion in court looking to delay the reopening of the plant after the agreement was announced.

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.

"Anyone who lives near Sterigenics will shudder to learn that this dangerous company will be allowed to reopen," Antonio Romanucci of Romanucci & Blandin, LLC, one of the law firms representing residents in the suits, said in a statement. "They have proven time and again that they are irresponsible and willing to put countless lives in jeopardy by emitting the toxic chemical ethylene oxide into the surrounding atmosphere at high levels."

New details emerged today in a community’s fight against Sterigenics, and NBC 5’s Christian Farr has the latest on the story. 

Sterigenics has not responded to the decision in court Friday but a spokesperson has previously said the company believes the lawsuits filed against them lack merit and they plan to "vigorously" defend against them. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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