Sterigeinics-More Misinformation and Half-Truths

Sadly, I’m familiar with dangerous pollution in this county. I spearheaded the effort to bring safe water to a little over 800 families in my neighborhood in the early 2000’s. While on the DuPage County Board I’ve been fighting to protect our citizens from health threats.

Our county is yet again in the middle of another public health crisis, a local business, Steriginics has been emitting dangerous levels of ethylene oxide into the air our friends and neighbors breathe. To make matters worse there is at least one known spill at the site that could pose a threat to people on private wells in the area surrounding Sterigenics.

On September 18, 2018, during the Health and Human Service Committee, I asked that the county, in conjunction with the health department, provide private well testing for the homes in the unincorporated area surrounding Sterigenics. I followed up my request with an email to Karen Ayala, Executive Director of the DuPage County Health Department, who responded immediately that her staff has begun to research the process.

During the October 10, 2018 meeting of the DuPage County Board Chairman Cronin gave a brief update on Sterigenics. Cronin said, “Karen Ayala with the DuPage County Health Department has been immersed and working with local, state and national  scientists and aggressively pursuing the facts and researching to find the most reliable test, we want to get it right.”

Ms. Ayala spoke at the October 10, 2018 meeting of the DuPage County Board Ayala said “on October 2, 2018, she issued a formal request to the USEPA seeking assistance on this pressing issue and followed up on October 5, 2018, with the USEPA in which they responded that they have gathered a group of EPA experts to assess any potential groundwater impact in Willowbrook.”

That doesn’t exactly sound like Ms. Ayala has been ‘immersed or aggressively pursuing the facts.”

I am putting this information out because I am tired of the misinformation and the half-truths that are continually being thrown out at the expense of our citizens who are very concerned about their health.

On October 2, 2018, I sent information to Karen Ayala regarding the types of testing that can be done to detect ethylene glycol, the information was provided to me by Mike Joyce, Mike used to work with the USEPA and was very involved with the water contamination in Downers Grove.

Below is the email chain between myself and the county staff:

Thu 04/10, 09:10
Hi Liz –
Thanks for the testing information that you sent the other day.  Karen and I have been reviewing the information that was contained in the email.  Any chance that you might have found a reliable test for Ethylene Oxide?  We are struggling to find any reliable tests for this compound.
Nicholas Kottmeyer, P.E.
Director of Public Works and Operations
DuPage County
On October 5, 2018 I sent the below response:
Fri 05/10, 11:39

Thanks Liz for the information— do they conduct tests on ethylene oxide?
Karen J Ayala
Please excuse brevity and typos.
Sent on iPhone.

Erroneous Information Removed From DuPage County Website

After a week of having erroneous information on its website DuPage County finally pulls news release at my request.

In order to address the public’s concerns about Sterigenics, the company that has poisoned the air in Willowbrook and the area surrounding Sterigenics for over thirty years, DuPage County set up a link as a source of information. That’s admirable as long as the information provided is accurate.

On October 2, 2018 DuPage County published a statement under the Sterigenics link.

Statement Regarding Action by Illinois E.P.A.

After calling for the shutdown of the Sterigenics Willowbrook facility for weeks, today DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin was pleased to report that his communication with Governor Rauner and the Illinois Protection Agency has led to the temporary shutdown of the facility. Cronin said:

”I am pleased that the Governor has answered my call to shut down Sterigenics of Willowbrook while state and federal environmental officials can complete testing and determine whether the air our residents breathe is safe. Together with Senator John Curran and County Board Member Greg Hart, I will continue to press the company and the authorities regulating Sterigenics to act on behalf of the communities involved. I will continue to support legislation that closely supervised the permitting of Sterigenics and promote open dialogue with the residents.”

That’s a powerful statement. The statement was not true. The statement was careless and reckless. The people in Willowbrook and the area surrounding Sterigenics have been on an emotional roller coaster and this statement lead to confusion and dismay as some were celebrating the shut down of the facility only to realize the facility had not been shut down and continues to conduct business as usual.

I spoke about the importance of providing accurate information to the public and requested that the statement be removed from the Sterigenics link.



Sterigenics link can be found here.

The Story of Sterigenics

Sadly, I’m familiar with dangerous pollution in this county. I spearheaded the effort to bring safe water to a little over 800 families in the early 2000’s. While on the DuPage County Board I’ve been fighting to protect our citizens from health threats.

Our county is yet again in the middle of another public health crisis, a local business, Steriginics has been emitting dangerous levels of ethylene oxide into the air our friends and neighbors breathe.

The moment I heard that the Illinois EPA decided that there “isn’t an immediate health crisis,” something Republicans, including Governor Rauner have repeated… I was reminded of the ordeal my family went through when we learned our water had been poisoned. They were wrong. And people got sick.

Please take a few minutes to watch this powerful video and share.

Stop Sterigenics will have a booth at the GOTV Concert today at the DuPage County Fairgrounds from 3:00 to 7:00 pm. Hope to see you there.


Local Emergency Planning Committee – Stop Sterigenics

During yesterday’s meeting of DuPage County’s Judicial Public Safety Committee I brought up the concerns of the residents of Willowbrook and the area surrounding Sterigenics had regarding the explosive nature of ethylene oxide. There’ll be a meeting of the  Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC).  The meeting is open to the public.  Meeting information is below:


Local Emergency Planning Committee

November 20, 2018

1:30 pm

OEM Chapel

418 N. County Farm Rd

Wheaton, Il

Rauner Has The Power To Shut Down Sterigenics – DuPage County Needs To Call On The Governor To Do His Job

Governor Rauner has the authority to shut down Sterigenics and during today’s meeting of the DuPage County Board I asked my colleagues to call on the governor to take action, he has the authority to do what needs to be done. He can shut it down.  At a minimum he should be calling for a task force which would include the EPA, DuPage County, the municipalities and the citizens.


The Chicago Tribune reports the following:

Trump, Rauner have the power to shut down a toxic Willowbrook plant. Will they use it?

Michael Hawthorne

Air pollution within legal limits can still be dangerous. With the Nov. 6 election just two months away, residents in traditionally Republican communities near Sterigenics are clamoring for a more aggressive response from local, state and federal officials. Yet quick action is unlikely for a variety of reasons.

READ MORE: High cancer risk in southeast DuPage County linked to company co-owned by Rauner’s former firm »

Ideas floated so far by local elected officials — introducing legislation, passing resolutions, calling to revoke the company’s permit — either offer little leverage against the company or would take months, if not years, to wind through the legislature and courts.

Another option is buried in the same permit that allows Sterigenics to pollute surrounding neighborhoods. Written in obscure legal language, it gives Rauner — or President Donald Trump’s administration — authority to declare the DuPage County facility a threat to public health and seek a court order to immediately shut it down.

You can read the full story here.

You can watch the meeting here.




Lipinski Calls on U.S. EPA to Demonstrate That Emissions from Sterigenics Are Not a Public Health Threat


“I haven’t seen any statements from the other side the isle, the Democrats, the higher ups.” -Dan Cronin DuPage County Board Chairman

Lipinski Calls on U.S. EPA to Demonstrate That Emissions from Sterigenics Are Not a Public Health Threat or Use Its Authority to Shut Down Plant

Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3) is urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take additional steps to address public health concerns stemming from emissions of ethylene oxide – a known carcinogen – from the Sterigenics plant in Willowbrook.  In a new letter to Andrew Wheeler, Acting Administrator of the U.S. EPA, Lipinski calls for immediate action by the agency to demonstrate that the emissions of ethylene oxide from the plant are no longer a threat to public health or use its authority under Section 303 of the Clean Air Act to shut down the plant.

Since 1984, Sterigenics’ Willowbrook facility has been using ethylene oxide to sterilize medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and food products.  Last month, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry released a report stating that residents who live near the Sterigenics plant are at an increased risk of cancer and other health problems, including neurological, respiratory, and gastrointestinal effects, as a result of ethylene oxide emissions.  This report has justifiably shocked, angered, and led to additional questions from various stakeholders, including, most importantly, residents from the southwestern suburbs around the plant.

“Looking at the map showing the increased cancer risks faced by people who live around this plant not only in Willowbrook, but in Indian Head Park, Burr Ridge, Western Springs, Hinsdale, Darien, Countryside, La Grange, and Westmont is frightening,” stated Rep. Lipinski.  “Although Sterigenics has followed state and federal laws, we now know that these laws are insufficient to protect the public’s health.  This is an example of regulations not keeping up with science.

“That’s why I’m asking the EPA to take action now to assess the degree of the health risk and shut down the facility if necessary,” continued Lipinski.  “I am also asking that ethylene oxide monitors be installed that can detect harmful levels and warn the public in the future.  The health, safety, and overall quality of life of the large population of people that live, work, and go to school near Sterigenics must come first.”

In May of this year, the EPA conducted testing in the neighborhoods around the Sterigenics facility and found levels of ethylene oxide that posed an increased cancer risk.  The venting of small amounts of ethylene oxide was allowed under state and federal law, in part because the EPA’s estimate of the cancer-causing potential of the gas was out of date.  In 2016, the EPA updated its estimate, last updated in 1985, finding that ethylene oxide poses a 30 times greater cancer risk than previously thought.  In July, the company upgraded its ventilation system to end the practice of venting directly to the outside air.  They claim this change will reduce emissions by 90%.

EPA Sterigenics Lettter (09/24/1811:45 AMET )


 “I haven’t seen any statements from the other side the isle, the Democrats, the higher ups.” -Dan Cronin DuPage County Board Chairman

Duckworth, Durbin & Foster Ask EPA & Sterigenics to Test Air Quality in Willowbrook for Cancer-Causing Chemicals

Sep 25, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Representative Bill Foster (D-IL-11) wrote to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and to Willowbrook-based Sterigenics asking them both to immediately conduct testing for local air quality for emissions of ethylene oxide, which has been found to cause cancer and is classified by the EPA as a known carcinogen. Sterigenics uses ethylene oxide to sterilize medical products and equipment. The Members of Congress requested the EPA and Sterigenics make their results available to the general public and that the company also provide personal exposure tests to Willowbrook residents.

“A recent investigation on the air quality in Willowbrook has led to concerns that Sterigenics operations could be adversely affecting public health,” the Members of Congress wrote. The EPA must monitor the ambient air at Sterigenics and ensure that data is publicly accessible. This transparencywill help Willowbrook residents and workers at the facility determine whether a public health risk exists and go a long way in reassuring the community that the information being relayed to them is accurate and without bias.”

The Members of Congress also asked the EPA to conduct testing for ethylene oxide emissions at facilities across the country that use the dangerous chemical as well as explain why a report on the public health hazards and elevated cancer risks posed by Sterigenics’ ethylene oxide emissions was abruptly removed from the EPA’s website, noting how that has caused confusion, anxiety and hardship on the neighboring community. The report was produced by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the 2014 National Air Toxins Assessment map, residents of Willowbrook have the second highest risk of cancer of any community in the country.

A copy of the letter to EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler and Region 5 Administrator Cathy Stepp is available online here. A copy of the letter to Sterigenics Senior Vice President Kathleen Hoffman is available online here.


Below is the original copy of Resolution CB-R-0875-18. Resolution CB-R-0875-18 is the resolution regarding the operation of the Sterigenics Willowbrook Facility.

Sterigenics Corporate Headquarters is located in Oak Brook, which is in District 2. The resolution will be amended, on my recommendation, to include District 2 County Board Members.

I believe that it is important to send a message to Sterigenics that the representatives in their home district do not approve of their past safety history and that the health and safety of the people in Dupage is our priority.

This is how we #buildabetterdupage




Last week I called for the ban of use of  ethylene oxide in DuPage County. During yesterday’s meeting of the DuPage County Board a resolution was passed that included revoking Sterigenics operating permit and for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to ban the use of ethylene oxide at the facility until further health and environmental studies are completed. While the resolution is a good first step, it doesn’t go far enough. Ethylene oxide is a known carcinogen, there is no safe use and it is dangerous to humans, that is why I continue to call for and support a full ban of the use of ethylene oxide.

You can watch the meeting here.

You can read more here.


What Are DuPage County Lobbyists Doing? Why Are We Paying Them?

The day after I cast the lone no vote to spend $260,000 to retain three lobbying firms, Jake Griffin, writer for the Daily Herald, published a study that finds for every dollar DuPage County taxpayers send to Springfield, the state returns 31 cents. That’s the lowest rate of return among all 102 counties in Illinois.

I believe that the best lobbyists for the people of DuPage County are the elected officials. Kane County proves my point. Kane County Board members act as their own lobbyists and 76 cents comes back for every dollar they send to Springfield.

Cook County uses lobbyists and they see a much better return on their investment. Cook County receives 80 cents for every dollar they send down to Springfield.

Cook County and DuPage County share a lobbying firm, All-Circo. I questioned how All-Circo could possible represent the interest of DuPage County and Cook County. Looks like Cook County is getting the better deal.

What are our lobbyists doing? What are we paying them for?



In 2015 I sent the below referenced questions to DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin:

The county has failed to seek Request for Qualifications for the lobbyists. Why has the county not sought RFQ’s? Is not seeking RFQ’s considered best practice?

All Circo is DuPage County’s lead lobbyists. All Circo is also Cook County’s lead lobbyists. How can All Circo represent both the interests of DuPage County and Cook County?

How much revenue have the lobbyists brought to DuPage County in the past two years? What projects have the lobbyists secured for DuPage County in the past two years? What direct benefit have the lobbyists brought to the residents of DuPage County in the past two years?