Deal to reopen Sterigenics blasted by residents’ lawyers

They said the company is getting off easy for emitting toxic chemical.

SHARE Deal to reopen Sterigenics blasted by residents’ lawyers
Attorneys Patrick Salvi Jr. and Todd Smith speak at a news conference Thursday about the state’s proposed settlement with Sterigenics.

Attorneys Patrick Salvi Jr. and Todd Smith speak at a news conference Thursday about the state’s proposed settlement with Sterigenics.

David Roeder

Attorneys for suburban residents who accuse Sterigenics of causing their cancers and other ailments Thursday assailed a proposed settlement that would allow the Willowbrook company to reopen.

They said the deal with Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin doesn’t go far enough and shows that Sterigenics operates in bad faith. The agreement would not allow Sterigenics back in business until it can satisfy regulators it has new equipment that will drastically reduce emissions of toxic ethylene oxide, or ETO.

“It took them being shut down by the Illinois EPA and by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office for them to actually go through the necessary effort to try to do everything they can to reduce or eliminate ETO admissions,” said Patrick Salvi Jr., one of the attorneys.

“Sterigenics is not a good neighbor,” Salvi said.

Attorney Todd Smith said, “The reaction from the community is one of outrage, and I think they are absolutely right.”

The lawyers said Sterigenics shouldn’t operate in a densely populated area as long as it emits any ETO. They pledged to continue their suits seeking damages from Sterigenics.

Sterigenics uses ETO to sterilize medical equipment. The proposed agreement is expected to be reviewed July 24 by DuPage County Circuit Judge Paul Fullerton.

It would commit Sterigenics to reducing annual ETO emissions to no more than 85 pounds a year, compared with recent emissions of between 2,840 and 7,340 pounds per year, according to Raoul.

In a statement released Wednesday, Sterigenics President Philip Macnabb said, “We are pleased to have reached this agreement, which creates a path for our Willowbrook facility to resume its safe operation and includes no finding of wrongdoing on the company’s part nor the imposition of any financial penalties.”

It requires the company to spend $300,000 on educational or environmental projects for the community, all subject to state approval.

Raoul’s office said installation of the required equipment could take up to six months.

In a statement issued later Thursday, Raoul took issue with criticism of the proposed settlement. He said it holds Sterigenics to a higher standard than a recently enacted state law that the company was trying to evade through a loophole. “Through the consent order, we eliminated that loophole,” Raoul said.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said that if lawmakers want to close “perceived shortcomings” in the state’s ETO law, he would call a special session of the Legislature. He also said Willowbrook-area residents are getting more protection from the consent order than they would from ongoing litigation.

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