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Victims: “No faith” that Sterigenics will follow Matt Haller Act, protect public from cancerous emissions

July 1, 2019

Victims suing Sterigenics, the scandal-ridden company found to be emitting cancer-causing ethylene oxide from its now-shuttered facility in suburban Willowbrook, are urging the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to reject the company’s attempts to reopen.

Sterigenics submitted a construction permit to the IEPA last week which included plans to install a new ethylene oxide emissions system that they claim will result in the “100% capture of all emissions,” a statement that community members facing health crises due to long-term exposure to Sterigenics’ ethylene oxide emissions don’t believe is possible. “We have no faith that Sterigenics will change its ways after years of willfully putting the public’s health in jeopardy. No amount of ethylene oxide exposure is safe,” said Colleen Haller, the widow of Matthew Haller, who died from stomach cancer, which has been liked to ethylene oxide exposure. “The IEPA must reject Sterigenics’ efforts to reopen and restart its dangerous activities. Matt’s law was passed because we never want another facility like this to harm people in Illinois ever again.”

Lawmakers and ethylene oxide safety advocates last week celebrated the bi-partisan passage of SB 1852, known as “The Matt Haller Act,” a measure that legislators called “a model bill” and which remedies the weak pollution control standards that allowed Sterigenics to poison the Willowbrook community for 34 years. Matt Haller is the first plaintiff involved in the lawsuit against Sterigenics to die. He lived about a mile from the Willowbrook Sterigenics facility. His widow, Colleen, and their 4-year-old son, still live a mile from the sterilization factory.

The new construction permit, which Sterigenics submitted to the IEPA on Monday, and which the IEPA Division of Records released on Wednesday, outlines the company’s plans for facility updates that they claim would totally eliminate ethylene oxide emissions by utilizing a “permanent total enclosure system” and a “continuous emissions monitoring system.” In the document, Sterigenics admits that “no CMS [continuous emissions monitoring system] has ever been demonstrated as applied to a sterilization facility like our Willowbrook plan,” while still touting the “100% capture” number. Sterigenics also asks in their latest permit request that IEPA “provide the certification, as part of the new legislation, that, once construction is complete, the facility will be using the technology that provides the greatest reduction in EO [ethylene oxide] emissions that is now available.” Sterigenics requests this “certification in conjunction with issuing the construction permit.”

“The IEPA and U.S. EPA have a long history of allowing Sterigenics to move under the radar, including allowing them to monitor and report their own emissions results. The company has had 34 years to implement the systems they now wish to test run on the Willowbrook community. They cannot and should not be allowed to do so when the health of community members is at risk,” said attorney Antonio Romanucci of Romanucci & Blandin, LLC, one of the law firms working on the Sterigenics lawsuits.

Last week, EPA official Bill Wehrum, who was heavily involved in the Sterigenics case, stepped down due to apparent ethical violations.

“All the new emissions systems in the world aren’t going to stop Sterigenics from being a bad actor. They forfeited their right of corporate citizenship and the loss of trust is irretrievable,” said Todd Smith of Power Rogers & Smith, another firm representing Sterigenics victims.

“Sterigenics has had emissions systems before, and bypassed them by opening facility doors and letting the gas out. Why would they act any differently now and do the right thing?” asked Steven Hart of Hart McLaughlin & Eldridge, also representing Sterigenics victims.

“Even with Matt Haller’s law in place, we will continue to fight for justice for Sterigenics victims past and future, because we’ve seen that this company will take a mile when given an inch from both the IEPA and U.S. EPA,” said Pat Salvi of Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., another firm representing Sterigenics victims. “There are no guarantees that this system works. Sterigenics should not be playing Russian roulette with the community’s health yet again.”

Romanucci & Blandin, LLC, Hart McLaughlin & Eldridge, Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., Power Rogers & Smith, L.L.P., The Collins Law Firm, P.C., Tomasik Kotin Kasserman, Corboy & Demetrio, P.C, Goldberg Weisman Cairo, and Dolan Law are providing support for individuals and families who are suffering from cancer, birth defects and miscarriages among other catastrophic injuries due to these carcinogenic emissions from the Sterigenics International plant in Willowbrook, Illinois. Together, the firms are fighting to hold Sterigenics accountable for the reckless negligence that has resulted in the needless and continuous poisoning of men, women and children in Illinois for so many years.

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