CHICAGO (CBS) — CBS 2 has been following the Sterigenics story and it has now taken center stage in Springfield with activists and lawmakers speaking out.
They said they want to make sure that ethylene oxide is never used at the company again.
CBS 2 political reporter Derrick Blakley has the story from Springfield where people are voicing fears over the gas that has been linked to cancer.
Legislators are reacting to what they’re hearing from residents living near Sterigenics plant as well as revelations uncovered by the CBS 2 Investigators. But the problem isn’t limited to Willowbrook.
“My home is located .2 miles from Sterigenics. A three minute walk,” said Gabriela Tejada-Rios. She spoke of the fear Willowbrook residents have been experiencing since learning of Sterigenics’ emission of ethylene oxide, a known carcinogen.
“I look over at Sterigenics buildings and see that … smoke permeating our sky, permeating our lungs and bodies with every breath we take,” she said.
Last Friday, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois EPA banned Sterigenics’ use of ethylene oxide, a chemical used to sterilize medical equipment and other goods. But some lawmakers contend that’s not enough.
“We need to act, as the legislature here, on a permanent basis. We need to make sure that proper policies and protections are in place to ensure that we do not have a situation like this again,” said Illinois State Senator John Curran (R-Downers Grove).
Curran and Illinois Democratic Senator Melinda Bush are pushing a package of measures calling for stricter monitoring and immediate notification of ethylene oxide leaks.
And it’s not just Sterigenics. Lake County residents have concerns about plants run by Vantage and Medline, which also use ethylene oxide.
“We need air testing conducted by an independent third party company, not picked by Medline or Vantage, to know what we are inhaling,” said Sterigenics opponent Soh Tanaka.
Meantime, Sterigenics has gone to federal court to fight the state shutdown. And an industry group said the state action sets a dangerous precedent.
“Sterigenics is a company that is operating in complete compliance with state and federal laws,” said Donovan Griffith of the Illinois Manufacturers Association. “And within the limits of their permits.”
No representatives from Sterigenics, Medline or Vantage testified at Tuesday’s hearing. CBS 2 contacted Sterigenics for comment on the hearing, but the company declined all comment. The company has always maintained that it has always been in compliance with all rules and regulations.
Meantime, the federal court hearing to hear Sterigenics’ objections to the Illinois EPA shutdown has been rescheduled for Wednesday.