Sterigenics plant in Willowbrook to stay closed until at least September

WILLOWBROOK, Ill. — The embattled Sterigenics plant in suburban Willowbrook will stay closed until at least Sept. 6.

That's the ruling from a judge Thursday on a controversial tentative deal that had been reached between the state of Illinois and Sterigenics for it to reopen its doors.

The Illinois Attorney General's Office struck the deal, which would have allowed the plant to reopen after it installs new equipment to drastically reduce its emissions of a cancer-causing gas known as ethylene oxide. This happened without community support or knowledge.

Now, the judge ordered four towns affected by the plant—Willowbrook, Darien, Hinsdale and Burr Ridge—to have a voice.

"We are looking at all possibilities," Willowbrook mayor Frank Trilla said. "We would like to introduce a 100% ban on ethylene oxide."

Back in February, Serigenics was forced to shut down after EPA monitoring found spikes in the toxic gas.

"When it comes to Sterigenics, they've broken the covenant that we would expect from somebody that lives and does business in our community," State Representative Deanne Mazzochi said.

Last month, a bi-partisan law enacted that is supposed to make Illinois the strictest state in the nation for imposing limits on ethylene oxide. The law, known as the Matt Haller Act, was in direct response to Sterigenics' emissions, which caused elevated cancer risks for residents in the four communities.

"Sterigenics can never open again," Burr Ridge Mayor Gary Grasso said.

Matt Haller was 45-years-old, lived a block from the plant and died of stomach cancer this year. Now, activists said the Illinois EPA and the Attorney General's office had a closed door meeting with Sterigenics to get the plant to reopen after making some repairs. They were not invited to those talks and feel duped.

Wednesday afternoon, Attorney Genearl Kwame Raoul and DuPage County State's Attorney Bob Berlin said they were never opposed to the village's motions to intervene because they recognize the need for communities to be heard and are committed to using all legal authority to protect the residents.

"I don't think any of us would be happy until EtO is banned in the state of Illinois and Sterigenics is prohibiting from opening," Darien Mayor Joseph Marchase said.

The judge also stated Thursday that the public has the right to intervene in the matter, so several nearby towns will file a brief by August 30.

Sterigenics will then have one week to respond.

 

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