WILLOWBROOK, Ill. — A deal is on the table to let the Sterigenics plant in Willowbrook resume operations after it was shut down over its emissions of cancer causing ethylene oxide.
The arrangement struck with the State Attorney General’s office still needs a judge’s approval.
“Sterigenics must comply with the strictest capture and control requirements in the nation and cannot reopen until it is in compliance,” said Attorney General Kwame Raoul.
Several families who say they got sick because of Sterigenics’ emissions are speaking out against it. They want the facility to remain shut down.
“Can you imagine the fright that goes through that community’s mind when they hear that the company that has been poisoning them since 1985 is going to reopen its doors,” said attorney Steven Hart. “And worse, they are still going to be able to use the same cancer causing chemical that caused their illnesses.”
Eleven lawsuits have been filed against Sterigenics saying the emission of ethylene oxide caused cancer and birth defects. The company first came under scrutiny last year after the EPA released an air toxin report.
Former Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s equity firm had a stake in the plant.
The plant was shut down by Governor J.B. Pritzker shortly after taking office.
Under the new deal proposal, the company must install new equipment to keep pollution at a negligible level and not a public health hazard. It will be monitored around the clock.
It must also put $300,000 into an account to be used for environmental improvements and education.
But that is not good enough for the affected communities or their representatives.
“When you look at this consent order that they just dropped on us yesterday, it is so full of holes you can drive a truck through it,” said State Rep. Deanne Mazzochi.
“Right now they should not be in any settlement negotiations regarding the operations of Sterigenics,” said House Republican Leader Jim Durkin. “As far as i’m concerned, they no longer have the right to operate in Illinois.”
A judge is set to look at the agreement on Wednesday.
“By resolving this matter, we are one major step closer to resuming the critical work of sterilizing vital medical products and devices in Willowbrook for patients in Illinois and beyond,” said Sterigenics President Philip Macnabb.