Manufacturer gives update on facility's emission reduction plan

  • Tea Tanaka of Stop EtO in Lake County addresses Illinois Environmental Protection Agency officials at a community meeting in at Whittier Elementary in Waukegan Thursday evening.

      Tea Tanaka of Stop EtO in Lake County addresses Illinois Environmental Protection Agency officials at a community meeting in at Whittier Elementary in Waukegan Thursday evening. Doug Graham | Staff Photographer

 
By Doug Graham
dgraham@dailyherald.com
Posted5/24/2019 1:00 AM

Waukegan residents got an update on the plan to reduce ethylene oxide emissions at a Waukegan manufacturer during a community meeting Thursday night. They also got a chance to ask questions and share their frustrations about how the process has gone.

Brad Frost, who works in community relations for the IEPA, said Medline was going to renovate their Waukegan facility, build a continuous emissions monitoring system and limit their emissions to 150 pounds per year.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We're taking the facility way beyond any regulatory standard," Frost said. "It's unheard of, both that there's a hard cap and that there's a rolling monitoring."

Frost said the IEPA believes once the changes are in place, the risk to the public will be down to one in a million, which he said is about the best there is.

Diana Burdette of Clean Power Lake County was one of several residents who during the lengthy question-and-answer session brought up Sterigenics, the Willowbrook manufacturer that the state effectively shut down after it failed air quality tests in February. Burdette said it was a double standard and an injustice that one was shut down and the other was not. She said the message the IEPA was sending was that the people of the Waukegan community didn't matter as much.

Tea Tanaka, one of several members of the group Stop EtO in Lake County who attended the event, asked why the IEPA had only decided to regulate Medline now when they have been releasing ethylene oxide for years.

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Frost said the IEPA was made aware of the levels of ethylene oxide from the U.S. EPA last year.

"Since August of 2018, let me tell you, we have been looking into how we quantify and control these emissions."

Outside of the planned controls at Medline, testing for the cancer-causing gas is planned near Medline and at Vantage in Gurnee after calls for action from residents and political leaders in both communities.

U.S. Rep Brad Schneider, a Deerfield Democrat, said he's been involved in the effort since the news broke in November and that he attended the event Thursday night because of how important an issue it is to the community.

"We're going to do everything we can to make sure we're on top of the issue and we're making progress going forward," Schneider said.

A Medline representative said at the meeting that they hope to begin putting the ethylene controls in place as soon as the permit is issued. The permit requires the changes be implemented within 180 days.

More information on the draft permit is available on the Illinois EPA website.

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