Casten, Durbin, Duckworth, Schneider, Underwood Request Urgent Action from Governor, EPA in Response to Lake County Ethylene Oxide Results

June 25, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Responding to today’s release of preliminary results of ambient air monitoring of ethylene oxide in Lake County, U.S. Representative Brad Schneider (IL-10) with U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth and U.S. Representatives Sean Casten (IL-06) and Lauren Underwood (IL-14) sent letters requesting urgent action from Governor J.B. Pritzker and U.S. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to protect the public health of area residents, and to assist the community in analyzing the testing results.

Letter to Governor Pritzker

In the letter to Gov. Pritzker, the Members of Congress express alarm at the ambient air monitoring results in Lake County and urge the Governor to “take appropriate action at the state-level.”

In addition, they draw attention to the parallels between the facts on the ground in Lake County and situation in DuPage County at Sterigenics.

“We trust you will treat these results with the same judicious approach as the ambient air data from Willowbrook and your next steps will reflect the seriousness that this situation merits,” the Members write in the letter.

The full letter is available online.

Letter to EPA Administrator Wheeler

In the letter to U.S. EPA Administrator Wheeler, the Members of Congress urge the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to begin working with local communities to analyze the emissions data and demand the U.S. EPA hold community forums to ensure the public is educated on what these results mean.

The Members also hold the EPA accountable for their inaction in Lake County, writing, “With the release of Lake County’s profoundly alarming preliminary monitoring data, we now have confirmed what we’ve believed from the start: Lake County’s EtO emissions should be taken every bit as seriously as Willowbrook’s. The total lack of engagement by EPA is disgraceful and leaves our constituents in the dark… Administrator Wheeler, it is your duty to fully assist Lake County with this extremely concerning issue. We respectfully urge you to do your job and provide Lake County with the Federal assistance it deserves.”

The full letter is available online.

Full text of Letter to Gov. Pritzker

June 21, 2019

Governor J.B. Pritzker

Office of the Governor

207 State House

Springfield, IL 62706

Dear Governor Pritzker:

We write to you regarding the recently released preliminary data from ambient air monitoring for ethylene oxide (EtO) in Lake County. We are deeply alarmed by these results and urge you to take appropriate action at the state-level.

Following air monitoring conducted by the U.S. EPA that showed dangerous levels of EtO in Willowbrook, you rightly issued a seal order for the facility in order to ensure the public health and safety of the surrounding community. While the results for Lake County are preliminary and based on a small sample size, the air monitoring for EtO around the Medline facility show dangerous ambient levels of this known carcinogen. In light of these alarming results, we urge you to take all appropriate actions to protect the public health of our constituents and reassure families who live near the Medline facility in Waukegan.

We commend Illinois, Lake County, Gurnee, Waukegan, and Park City for their leadership addressing EtO in the absence of action by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Despite repeated calls – from us and from our constituents – to conduct ambient air monitoring and to fulfill its proper role enforcing the safety of the air we breathe, U.S. EPA has inexplicably dragged its feet and abandoned its duty to protect public health. We also have been deeply frustrated by U.S. EPA’s lack of willingness to engage the public on the issue and its refusal to hold any community forum for Lake County residents to better understand the threat posed by EtO.

We trust you will treat these results with the same judicious approach as the ambient air data from Willowbrook and your next steps will reflect the seriousness that this situation merits. We will continue to hold U.S. EPA accountable for its dereliction of duty. Please do not hesitate to let us know how else we can be helpful.

                                                            Sincerely,

Full text of Letter to U.S. EPA Administrator Wheeler:

June 21, 2019

The Honorable Andrew Wheeler

Administrator

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460

Dear Administrator Wheeler:

We write to you regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) role in protecting our constituents from ethylene oxide (EtO). We have been deeply frustrated by the EPA’s total lack of leadership and community engagement on EtO issues in Lake County, Illinois.

Responding to EtO emissions in Willowbrook, Illinois, EPA engaged with the local community. EPA conducted and analyzed ambient air monitoring, and held public forums with the community, steps which provided residents with vital public health information that kept them more informed on an issue deeply important to the area. These actions were also aligned with EPA’s mission to safeguard the air we breathe.

In Lake County, however, EPA’s role in addressing this exact same issue has been a different story entirely. Since day one, EPA had an obligation to provide the same comprehensive, engaged response to Lake County. Yet, in spite of our repeated requests – in person and in writing – for EPA to do its duty and treat EtO emissions in Lake County with the same urgency and due diligence as Willowbrook, EPA has refused. Despite cries from the community and recognizing no discernable difference between Willowbrook and the circumstances in Lake County, EPA has so far declined to uphold its mission to protect families in Waukegan and Gurnee from EtO. 

For months, EPA insisted that its role in providing these communities with dispersion modeling was sufficient, yet never provided an explanation for why it would not fund, coordinate, or analyze ambient air monitoring as it had done in Willowbrook. We commend the service of local leaders in filling the void of EPA leadership when EPA’s complete dereliction of duty forced the community to rise to the challenge. Nevertheless, this work should have been EPA’s job from the very beginning.

With the release of Lake County’s profoundly alarming preliminary monitoring data, we now have confirmed what we’ve   believed from the start: Lake County’s EtO emissions should be taken every bit as seriously as Willowbrook’s. The total lack of engagement by EPA is disgraceful and leaves our constituents in the dark. We demand EPA work with Lake County to analyze the emissions data and hold community forums to ensure the public is educated on what these results mean.

Administrator Wheeler, it is your duty to fully assist Lake County with this extremely concerning issue. We respectfully urge you to do your job and provide Lake County with the Federal assistance it deserves.

Sincerely,

 

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