𝗔𝗴𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗶𝗲𝘀 & 𝗽𝗼𝗹𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗰𝗶𝗮𝗻𝘀 𝗱𝗲𝗰𝗹𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝗠𝗶𝘀𝘀𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗔𝗰𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗽𝗹𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗱 𝗼𝗻 𝗘𝘁𝗢. But we say 𝗡𝗢𝗧 𝗦𝗢 𝗙𝗔𝗦𝗧.

This week, USEPA Region 5 sent a 10-page letter to Lake County Board explaining the health risks from EtO data gathered from LCHD in 2019 & 2020 testing phases. (https://bit.ly/3Dal2Dd)

They summarized the initial health risks from Medline & Vantage from the data collected from LCHD in Fall/Winter 2019 (pre-installation of emission controls). These calculations suggested health risks to LC communities were elevated above USEPA acceptable threshold.

This validates what Stop EtO has been saying for the last 3 years! We’re glad Region 5 finally admitted EtO pollution in LC as a problem.

The letter continues to say that Region 5 used the IL EPA permit caps of 150 lbs/yr (for Medline) and 110 lbs/yr (for Vantage) as the upper benchmark to calculate risk post emission control installation.

They did not use the actual data collected from LCHD in April 2020 (post installation of emission controls) to calculate risk. They dismissed that data set saying, “𝘌𝘗𝘈 𝘣𝘦𝘭𝘪𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘮𝘰𝘥𝘦𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘶𝘭𝘵𝘴 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘷𝘪𝘥𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘦𝘷𝘪𝘥𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘦 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘪𝘮𝘱𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘔𝘦𝘥𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘝𝘢𝘯𝘵𝘢𝘨𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘴𝘦 𝘮𝘰𝘯𝘪𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘶𝘭𝘵𝘴 𝘥𝘰.”

And they absolutely decided not to touch the potential of EtO warehouse emissions, unregulated by Illinois EtO laws and a proven problem in GA. In fact, the Republican governor in Georgia called these findings “highly concerning.” Whereas Illinois Democrat Governor Pritzker has never acknowledged the problem or asked his IL EPA to investigate it.

They concluded the letter saying the health risks post installation of emission controls are under their threshold and safe. In other words, Region 5 sided with Lake County polluters. Again.

T𝗵𝗿𝗼𝘄𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗮𝘄𝗮𝘆 𝗱𝗮𝘁𝗮 𝘄𝗵𝗶𝗰𝗵 𝗱𝗼𝗲𝘀𝗻’𝘁 𝗳𝗶𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗻𝗮𝗿𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗶𝘃𝗲 𝗶𝘀 𝘂𝗻𝗱𝗲𝗿𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗱𝗲𝗱, 𝘀𝗻𝗲𝗮𝗸𝘆, and ultimately deadly for residents. If the EPA did not trust the April 2020 data set, they should re-test and gather more data, not replace the data with “prediction models.”

Furthermore, independent air testing from Stop EtO conducted Aug & Sept 2020, showed emissions by Vantage & Medline were still dangerously high & included off-gassing data by one warehouse. https://bit.ly/3mkpLLv .

We believe Region 5 is trying to clear its name from the damaging OIG report (https://bit.ly/3a1FEki) that clearly blames Region 5 for inaction in Lake County, IL. They’re using prediction models to conclude that their job in Lake County is finished.

𝙄𝙩 𝙞𝙨 𝙢𝙤𝙨𝙩 𝙘𝙚𝙧𝙩𝙖𝙞𝙣𝙡𝙮 𝙉𝙊𝙏.

Politicians, like Congressman Schneider, who have personal interests linked to our polluters and have accepted donations from them for years, will grab the opportunity this US EPA letter provided them to declare Mission Accomplished in Lake County.

𝙄𝙩 𝙞𝙨 𝙢𝙤𝙨𝙩 𝙘𝙚𝙧𝙩𝙖𝙞𝙣𝙡𝙮 𝙉𝙊𝙏.

This letter combined with the charges of the OIG report convinces us that communities must have continuous fenceline monitoring for EtO polluters.

𝙒𝙀 𝙉𝙀𝙀𝘿 𝙍𝙀𝘼𝙇 𝘿𝘼𝙏𝘼, 𝙍𝙀𝘼𝙇 𝙏𝙍𝘼𝙉𝙎𝙋𝘼𝙍𝙀𝙉𝘾𝙔.

ILLINOIS LEGISLATIVE LOOPHOLES FOR ETO LAWS SB1852 & SB1854

In Spring 2019, Illinois passed EtO laws that were touted as some of the “toughest in the nation”. In actuality, these laws are filled with egregious loopholes that allow polluters to legally pollute.

What we know now (via the OIG report) is that these laws were passed in a vacuum, for not only was Lake County NOT given adequate information regarding the extent of our pollution, the ability to test the air prior to the passage of these laws was suppressed by both the feds and the state.

Here are the major loopholes found in Illinois EtO laws SB1852 & SB1854:

1. No caps in IL laws on EtO emissions (stack and fugitives), only caps in IEPA permits.

2. No current limits, penalties, or monitoring near warehouses storing products processed by EtO. No existing emission controls for warehouses belonging to commercial sterilizers.

• Nearby communities remain unaware of dangers.

3. No financial penalties for EtO emission violations.

4. No shutdowns required for companies exceeding IEPA permitted levels.

5. A reliance on polluters to honestly self-report.

• Vantage Suspected Leaks not investigated by ILEPA because according to ILEPA “none were reported by Vantage.”

Vantage “revised” previously reported EtO emissions and REMOVED 64,000 lbs of emissions data from TRI report.

6. Need for stronger air monitoring & reporting requirements for Medline and Vantage.

• 24 hours/day – 365 days a year fenceline monitoring; data needs to be available for public access from ILEPA website.

• Lack of continuous fenceline air monitoring leaves residents at risk.

7. Need for stronger inspection requirements by IL EPA.

• Need more than one pre-planned yearly inspection.

8. Risk Management Plans and Notice requirements.

• Medline taking advantage of federal loophole in Clean Air Act requiring polluters to have RMP for EtO above 10,000 lbs storage (Medline’s ILEPA Clean Air Act permit is for 9,999.0 lbs.)  

Stop EtO: A Recap and Update

2020: Ethylene Oxide in Lake County – Where Are We? A Recap

It’s been two years since Lake County residents learned about the cancer-causing ethylene oxide (EtO) air pollution Vantage Chemicals and Medline spew in Lake County (via a newspaper article and not our local government) and our problem is far from fixed. 

What follows is a recap of key events taking place over the past 24 months, including shocking new information about Illinois government officials Stop EtO has not shared. To get a true scope of the challenges our communities face trying to end ethylene oxide pollution, we urge you to read this post in its entirety. Yes it’s a bit long, but it puts together the puzzle pieces unique to our situation and the emerging picture is looking ugly. (If you don’t know what EtO is or why it’s dangerous, don’t worry we will cover that). So please, give this recap the time it deserves.

If you ever heard of Sterigenics in Willowbrook, or Stop Sterigenics, then know the EtO cancer-causing problem in Lake County is one and the same. The main differences between EtO in Willowbrook and EtO in Lake County are: 1) Willowbrook had one EtO plant, whereas Lake County has two EtO plants, plus several warehouses that store products sterilized with EtO and 2) government agencies and Illinois politicians did way more for Willowbrook than they have done or are doing for Lake County.

After two years a disturbing pattern has emerged – while other states like Michigan and Georgia aggressively tackle their EtO pollution, many Illinois officials appear to be working very hard to keep things status quo here in Lake County. Then again, MI and GA government officials are not swayed by the Mills Family (Illinois billionaire owners of Medline – i.e., wealthy people living in wealthy cities far away from their cancer-causing waste) who lob their power like sticks of financial dynamite via political donations to a whole lot of politicians.

One thing to keep in the mind as you read this: the success of Stop EtO depends very much upon community involvement. It’s important residents realize we STILL live with increased cancer risks because polluters (Vantage and Medline) keep legally discharging their cancer-causing chemicals into our air (on the bright side, this lets polluting executives afford expensive Highland Park, IL estates and fancy Beverly Hills mansions). As long as our legislators believe constituents are unconcerned and uneducated, Stop EtO will not succeed in eliminating this PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS in Lake County.

Medline Executives livin’ large in Beverly Hills
while Lake County residents are stuck breathing

their CANCER-CAUSING pollution
Source: http://www.dirt.com

Rich Winnetka residents needn’t worry about
Medline’s CANCER-CAUSING pollution
Photo source: Crain’s Chicago Business

EtO has been on the federal list of carcinogens since 1985. Yet, no one ever bothered to tell anyone until 2016, when the US EPA finally released their long-delayed report saying EtO poses a BIG cancer risk to people. Still, the federal government hasn’t passed EtO standards to protect us. Which means we need our local Lake County and Illinois state government officials to step in and PROTECT US LIKE THEY WERE SWORN TO DO. (That’s why we voted for them, right?)

Shockingly, documents revealed the IL EPA knew about the dangers of EtO as far back in 1984 (the same year Ghostbusters, The Terminator, and The Karate Kid were released)! After 37 years of ignoring a cancer-causing problem, it’s about time Lake County and IL State officials END this nightmare.

We ask that you please share this recap with your friends and neighbors, via email or social media (here’s the link: https://bit.ly/3kM9Js3). Unfortunately, many people still don’t know of the cancer dangers we face as polluters and some local politicians continue to downplay the risks. 

IL EPA Director John Kim and IL EPA Legal Counsel Jim Morgan
speaking to Chemical Industry Council of Illinois lobbyists
Photo credit: Twitter

Stop EtO and EtO Basics:

Established in November 2018, Stop EtO is a grassroots organization made of neighbor and parent volunteers concerned with cancer causing gas (referred to as emissions) in Lake County. Our mission is to halt ethylene oxide (EtO) emissions near our homes and schools because people should not have to breathe cancer-causing air pollution so companies can get rich. No one owns air. Our main objectives include:

  • Raise awareness of EtO emissions in Lake County
  • Get air testing near Vantage and Medline facilities
  • Convince Illinois lawmakers to pass legislation ending EtO emissions near densely populated residential areas

EtO, an odorless and invisible gas, is used to sterilize medical materials and produce consumer goods. EtO is a sterilant that attacks and damages DNA and causes death. When polluters like Vantage and Medline use EtO, their factories release EtO gas into the air through stacks (kind of like a chimney) or via leaks (when EtO escapes from tanks, hoses, and valves meant to contain it). EtO doesn’t know the difference between germs and human cells, which is what makes it a dangerous Class 1A carcinogen (something known as cancerous to humans and animals). Government officials have known for years EtO causes cancer.

The most common cancers caused by EtO are breast cancers, leukemia, and lymphomas. Kids are especially vulnerable to EtO. In fact, the cancer rate for kids in Illinois are some of the highest in the nation. Because of its nature, EtO hurts pets and animals too. And because EtO changes the chemical structure of DNA, it is possible to pass down deformed genes.

Medline employees raised $6000 for breast cancer awareness
EtO is KNOWN to cause breast cancer
Source: Twitter

The EPA set the actionable level for EtO at 0.02 µg/m³ (actionable level means that when the concentration level of a toxic substance is too high, it requires a regulatory action). If an EtO air sample reads above the actionable level of say at 0.3 µg/m³ or 0.9 µg/m³ or 4.0 µg/m³, the risks of getting cancer go up exponentially (i.e., the risks get bigger, faster).

At 0.02 µg/m³ the EPA expects 100 in a million people will get EtO-caused cancer. In terms of Lake County, if we adjust the level to reflect a population of 155,000 people (the approximate population of communities near Medline and Vantage) the cancer rate is 16 people for 155,000, as long as the EtO air concentration is 0.02 µg/m³.

Thus, elevated EtO air level concentrations that read between 0.20 µg/m³ and 1.0 µg/m³, means hundreds of innocent people (out of a population of 155,000) are predicted to get cancer from EtO!

The above information is relevant because Spring 2020 air testing produced these results.

Who will be the next victim of this preventable cancer?

EtO concentration levels are measured by collecting air samples via canisters. This canister method is the only federally approved method of collecting EtO air samples (an important point that will disturbingly come up later in this recap).

EtO Air testing canister in a Gurnee baseball
field because our kids are exposed to
CANCER-CAUSING air pollution

Both the US EPA and CDC classified EtO as a known human carcinogen (something that causes cancer) which is the highest dangerous classification a toxic chemical can receive. The CDC recently released an EtO draft toxicity profile treating EtO as a far more-reaching health threat than previously stated by the US EPA.  Many Ilinois residents have been breathing EtO for years without even realizing it. Some Illinois victims are suing EtO polluters for their cancer.  

Many people at risk still have no idea they are
breathing Medline and Vantage EtO air pollution
Source: EPA

A Case For Science:

Regarding the scientific evidence of EtO dangers – some Illinois politicians claim the federal government has not done a good job proving the data on EtO.

To be clear, the federal government spent 10 years reviewing EtO; the 228 page IRIS report they released was compiled by 52 non-biased authors, contributors, and reviewers who mostly worked for the US EPA and several prestigious universities.

Why would Illinois politicians question a report put out by non-biased governments experts?

One reason: polluters hire consultant companies such as Exponent Engineering and Scientific Consulting to challenge science so legislation will favor them.

Exponent’s Business model is based on helping clients
“fix” their “science and regulatory business issues”
Source: Exponent.com

In fact, Fair Warning (a nonprofit investigative organization focusing on public health, consumer, workplace and environmental issues, along with government and business accountability) did an analysis of Exponent and discovered at least 1,850 peer-reviewed articles, letters, and book chapters have been written or co-authored by Exponent scientists and engineers since the start of 2000. Many Exponent articles try to sway regulators and juries by questioning concerns about everything from asbestos and pesticide exposure to oil and chemical pollution.

It’s hard for any logical person to trust Exponent scientists given the “science” they’ve provided in the past. Here are some examples of firms and industries who’ve hired Exponent to discredit science:

Dr. Jane Teta testifying asbestos is safe
source: publicintegrity.org

This point is key because just days AFTER the EtO problem was exposed in Illinois (Nov 2018), Medline brought in Dr. Jane Teta of Exponent to testify in front of the Illinois House Environmental Committee AND the Illinois Senate Environment and Conservation Committee before any new legislation was even proposed.

Medline pays Exponent scientist to testify to
IL Senate Environmental & Conservation Committee (Nov 14, 2018)
and Illinois House Environmental Committee (Nov 13, 2018)

Teta testified asbestos was safe!
source: https://newsroom.medline.com/company-news/medline-critical-use-ethylene-oxide

Dr. Teta’s claims that the IRIS was flawed was backed up by the American Chemical Council, a lobbying group for the chemical industry, known to donate large sums of money to politicians.

Medline hires Exponent scientist Dr. Jane Teta to claim
the federal government’s IRIS study is wrong.
And many Illinois legislators believe her.
Source: Medline newsroom

In addition, in 2014 during a public hearing, Dr. Teta recommended to the EPA that they toss out breast cancer as a target organ of EtO-caused cancer (the EPA follows a lengthy process for its IRIS studies, including public hearings where paid scientists and industry lobbyists can present information). After considering Teta’s requests, the EPA chose NOT to accept her recommendation.

That Illinois politicians rely on polluters to provide them with scientific EtO information from Exponent, given Exponent’s history of misinformation and Dr. Jane Teta’s pro-asbestos stance, is alarming and irresponsible.

Illinois politicians chose to believe Medline’s pro-EtO
scientist over non-biased contributors who
all reviewed the EPA’s EtO IRIS study
source: https://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/iris/iris_documents/documents/toxreviews/1025tr.pdf

Keep in mind the EPA’s EtO IRIS study was a lengthy endeavor that took over a decade to put together and went through a litany of stages, including public comments from industry and lobbyists, to ensure it’s reliability.

EPA Process of an IRIS Study
Note ALL the stages of reviewing information
source: EPA

In addition to the EPA’s science, the Illinois State Medical Society condemns EtO as harmful to people.

The Polluters:

Two facilities release EtO in Lake County: Vantage Specialty Chemicals (Gurnee, IL) and Medline Industries (Waukegan, IL). EtO pollution is the waste of their production methods (making our air their toilet bowl). Medline chooses and uses EtO to sterilize medical supplies in packs (even though many of those supplies could be sterilized using a safer and effective alternative). The packs are a convenience for their customers (and an inconvenience to the victims of EtO-caused cancer). Vantage uses EtO to produce non-medical products, such as antifreeze, consumer goods, etc. Railroad cars bring in approximately 4.4 million pounds of EtO a year to Vantage.

On 10/29/2020, a freight train carrying EtO tanks derailed near Mauriceville, TX (population ~ 3,200 people). Two hazmat ethylene oxide cars and one hazmat propylene oxide car derailed; fortunately both remained intact with no leaks. However, two hazmat cars carrying a corrosive liquid did leak. As that liquid didn’t pose a respiratory concern, authorities chose to only evacuate a one-mile zone for clean-up while setting up another half mile zone outside of the evacuation radius as a shelter-in-place. Nearby schools were closed for several days out of abundance of caution.

Imagine if this happened in populated Illinois cities

In addition, a driver captured the moment of derailment from her car. She was extremely fortunate the EtO cars didn’t leak because if she didn’t die from the potentially ensuing explosion, she would have most certainly inhaled plenty of cancerous EtO gas. Here is the video:

October 2020 EtO train derailment near Mauriceville, TX
Source: You Tube

Speaking of explosion, did you know besides EtO causing cancer, it is also highly explosive? The force of an EtO explosion has the potential to reach the yield of a tactical nuclear weapon. Any train tracks running through or near your neighborhood?

2013 Canadian Train Explosion
It could happen in Illinois  
Photo credit: © Anne-Julie Hallée/Youtube

Now that we have covered most of the basics, we turn to Stop EtO’s efforts to get this cancer-causing gas out of neighborhoods. Here is where you will see a pattern start to emerge, a pattern of State and County officials who seem more concerned about protecting the polluters than they do about protecting Lake County residents.

And in case anyone tries to give us the bullcrap line that polluters bring jobs to the county and one must consider the risk benefit of EtO, think about this: THESE JOBS CAUSE CANCER.

Kids are getting cancer. Moms are getting cancer. Uncles are getting cancer. Grandparents are getting cancer. We know this because we get contacted weekly from newly diagnosed cancer victims.

And make no mistake, people getting cancer due to EtO pollution ARE VICTIMS. Victims of a cancer that is PREVENTABLE if only our government imposed truly safe regulations.

What good are jobs that make other Lake County constituents too sick to work? What are the financial hardships of families who must spend their income to treat cancer caused by polluters? What are the emotional burdens of EtO cancer victims and their families? How can politicians justify cancer-causing jobs?

Lake County jobs that cause cancer in Lake County residents is a bad trade-off.

And not only do Illinois politicians seem to think cancer-causing jobs are somehow good for Illinois, they even paid Medline MILLIONS to keep them via EDGE tax credits. Meanwhile, hardworking Lake County families pay obscene property tax bills (some of the highest in the nation) all for the horrible trade-off of cancerous air pollution. Between the years 2001 – 2014, Medline received at least $39.3 million dollars in tax credits, all by threatening to leave the state. And Illinois politicians fell for it hook, line, and sinker. In fact, Senator Melinda Bush, Chair of the Illinois Senate Environmental Committee, proudly touts her role in passing EDGE credit.

Illinois couldn’t afford to pay for EtO testing in Lake County but they could afford to pay for $4,965,474 Medline Edge Credit in 2019
Source: https://www.ilcorpacct.com/corpacct/ProgressReport.aspx

Illinois gave Medline a $7,148,265 Edge Credit in 2018
Did you get a break on you property tax bill that year?

Source: https://www.ilcorpacct.com/corpacct/ProgressReport.aspx

You can search these two websites for information on Medline’s EDGE credits:

https://www.ilcorpacct.com/corpacct/ProgressReport.aspx

https://www2.illinois.gov/dceo/ExpandRelocate/Incentives/Pages/EdgeAgreements.aspx

Who are Illinois officials working for again?

According to Medline, “We recognize the responsibility we have to protect and preserve our environment”
yet Medline released ethylene oxide air pollution into Lake County air FOR YEARS

Source: Twitter

Nov 2018 – Jan 2019:

Stop EtO reached out to the US EPA and IL EPA via phone calls and emails asking for air testing so we could learn exactly how much cancer-causing EtO we were breathing. Both agencies kept redirecting us to the other; neither committed to testing.

Stop EtO also attended bi-monthly village board meetings at the Village of Gurnee and pleaded for independent air testing. We begged Mayor Kovarik to use Home Rule Authority to shut down Vantage. (The Illinois Constitution allows a home rule unit to “exercise any power and perform any function pertaining to its government and affairs.” The Constitutional legislative and local constraints to home rule units are minimal.)

But our pleas fell on plenty of deaf ears. Unlike Willowbrook Mayor Frank Trilla who stood by his residents and fought against EtO-polluter Sterigenics, Mayor Kovarik and her Village Board repeatedly criticized and ridiculed our efforts. Despite attempts to work together, Kovarik and her board refused to meet with Stop EtO. Kovarik even told reporters, “there is a lot of misinformation being put out there by activist groups, further muddying the waters.” (Mayor Kovarik’s unfounded accusations is one reason why Stop EtO consistently provides links and resources, we WANT residents to see the truth.)

Because we felt Mayor Kovarik and the Village of Gurnee were not doing enough to inform Gurnee residents of nearby dangers, Stop EtO initiated monthly town meetings to alert the public about EtO emissions and dangers.

Stop EtO began crowdfunding for purpose of raising awareness. We purchased t-shirts, yard signs, buttons, magnetic car stickers, etc., and gave merchandise to the public, free of charge. 

Willowbrook Mayor Frank Trilla hugging his constituents
fighting against Sterigenics EtO pollution  
Photo credit: AJC
“Gurnee Queen” Mayor Kovarik
Photo credit: Daily Herald

Meanwhile, at end of January 2019, the State of Michigan fined Viant, a medical sterilizer in Grand Rapids, $110,000 for their high EtO emissions. This came after Michigan officials did an extensive evaluation of EtO pollution and deemed Viant knowingly released cancer-causing EtO into the air.

This is in sharp contrast to Illinois, which does not impose fines on EtO polluters.

February 2019:

On February 15, 2019 Governor Pritzker, along with State Attorney Bob Berlin and IL EPA John Kim, shut down Sterigenics in Willowbrook due to high EtO emissions. This shutdown fulfilled a campaign promise Pritzker made to Willowbrook residents. Not only did Director Kim invoke a rarely used authority in state law, he cited a federal study stating, “EtO is so toxic that even tiny concentrations routinely leaked posed a significant health risk.” (Kim would later downplay EtO risks during an October 2019 Lake County townhall meeting on the subject.) During this press release, Governor Pritzker committed to, “using every available tool to protect the health and well-being of Illinoisans” and promised to “continue to take any available and necessary action.”

Yet Governor Pritzker and Director Kim never shut down either Lake County polluters, even though residents were breathing in the same cancer-causing gas polluting Willowbrook. In fact, Pritzker NEVER made that campaign promise to Lake County constituents.

Why?

Why didn’t Lake County residents get the same promise as Willowbrook residents?

Governor Rauner’s equity firm was part owner of Sterigenics, which Pritzker relentlessly
highlighted in his election campaign.
Photo credit: The Pantagraph

Do Lake County constituents deserve the same aggressive approach to resolving EtO-pollution that Willowbrook received? We think so.

Janel F, reminding newly elected Governor Pritzker on Twitter
to keep good on his campaign promise.
Photo credit: Twitter

Since Stop EtO requests for air testing were repeatedly denied by Gurnee Mayor Kovarik and Gurnee Village Board members Jeanne Balmes, Greg Garner, Tom Hood (newly appointed Vice Mayor), Quin O’Brien, Cheryl Ross, and Karen Thorstenson, we attended a Waukegan City Council meeting to request independent air testing. The Waukegan leaders/aldermen agreed.

On Feb 22th, 2019, Waukegan leaders met with Lake County Health Officials, the IL EPA, and the Village of Gurnee to discuss air testing. They decided to split air-testing costs between the City of Waukegan, the Village of Gurnee, and the Lake County Health Department.

March 2019:

In March, Stop EtO also submitted a legal report to the Village of Gurnee (written by Nancy Loeb of the Northwestern School of Law Environmental Advocacy Clinic), arguing that Gurnee has the authority to regulate EtO emissions via Home Rule Authority. The Village of Gurnee would later hire a law firm to say it doesn’t have the legal right.

Legal explanation of why Gurnee CAN and SHOULD use Home Rule Authority

Lake County Health Dept announced independent air testing would begin in early June 2019, giving Medline and Vantage almost 3-months to prepare for air testing.

On March 28th, 2019, Stop EtO traveled to Washington, DC to testify in a Congressional hearing for the proposed amendment on the Hydrochloric Acid regulation, as the US EPA was trying to slip EtO regulations inside HCl regulations. Community crowdfunding sponsored this successful trip – big thanks to those who supported us!

Mid-April 2019:

Vantage finished installation of emission controls (scrubbers), which are supposed to eliminate 99.9% of EtO from being released into the air, yet subsequent air monitoring tests will later show otherwise.

Vantage courtesy of Google Maps

Stop EtO continued to contact IL EPA asking for a townhall meeting for residents, but our requests were consistently denied. Meanwhile, the IL EPA repeatedly met with Willowbrook residents.

Two communities, two different demographics, same pollution problem, yet completely opposite State responses.

Is environmental racism also at play?  

The IL EPA’s promise. Anyone else not feeling it?
Source: IL EPA website
Why doesn’t the IL EPA include ethylene oxide under their Citizen Air Quality Page?

Unsatisfied with the Lake County Health Dept testing plans, Stop EtO met with Lake County Board Chair Sandy Hart and board member Steve Carlson (sidebar: Steve Carlson appears was on at least three different LC committees making decisions on ethylene oxide, including Lake County Health Dept).

Stop EtO made the following requests, which the LCB ultimately ignored:

  1. Expand the number of canisters used to collect air samples.
  2. Expand the number of days tested from 30 to 90. (The more days tested, the better we can understand the level of pollution).
  3. Do not consider “remote” canisters as true negative controls, as these canisters were placed too close to the facilities. (A negative control in an experiment is expected to show negative results, which in this case means little to no detectable EtO levels.)

May – June 2019:

Stop EtO focused on passing laws to regulate EtO air pollution (i.e. emissions). We worked closely with our elected Senators and Representatives. In June 2019, the following IL laws were passed:

  • SB1852 – Addresses EtO emissions coming from sterilization companies; the bill was supported and influenced by our counterparts Stop Sterigenics in Willowbrook. This bill required the installation of 99.9% efficiency scrubbers and required sterilizers to install negative control pressure systems and to have 100% capture of fugitive (i.e., leaks) emissions. It also imposed continuous monitoring of emissions in stack(s).
  • SB1854 – Addresses EtO emissions coming from manufacturing companies; this bill was supported and influenced by Stop EtO in Lake County. This bill required installation of 99.9% efficiency scrubbers.
  • IL Senator Melinda Bush and Representative Joyce Mason supported both bills and sponsored SB1854.

Meanwhile, AB Specialty Silicones, a chemical plant located less than a mile from Vantage exploded, killing four people and scaring thousands. The explosion was felt and heard as far as Racine and Kenosha Counties in Wisconsin. It was later reported AB Specialty Silicones did not meet the regulation threshold under the EPA’s Risk Management Plan (RMP) program or OSHA’s Process Safety Management (PSM) standard (i.e., emergency plans the federal government requires plants using toxic chemicals have in place due to their use of dangerous chemicals).

Medline does not have a Risk Management Plan filed for EtO for their Waukegan facility. How is this possible? Medline appears to stock just under the amount of EtO needed (measured in pounds) requiring a risk management plan.

AB Specialty Silicone explosion caused by leaking hydrogen
Photo credit: WTTW
Accidents happen: Beirut 2020 explosion caused by ammonium nitrate
Photo credit: Anwar Amro

June 2019:

Lake County Health Dept paid an independent contractor (via a Gurnee/Waukegan/ Lake County Health Dept 3-way split) to perform air testing near Vantage and Medline. Testing lasted through June and samples were collected on average every 1 to 3 days, for a total of ~10 days. 4 canisters were located near Vantage, 4 canisters were located near Medline, and 2 canisters were located further away as “negative controls.” The number of canisters used in Lake County for two polluters contrasted sharply with 10-12 canisters used per day by the US EPA for one polluter (Sterigenics) in Willowbrook.

Once again, what Illinois government officials are willing to do for Willowbrook vs. what officials are willing to do for Lake County continues to widen.

Clearly, officials favored Willowbrook.

When Trump’s EPA (responsible for dismantling a bunch of environmental laws)
says Environmental Racism is real, there is no choice but to believe it.
Headline credit: The Atlantic Feb 2018

July 2019:

Stop EtO met with directors and scientists from US EPA Region 5 and the Lake County Health Dept, to discuss air testing in Lake County – specifically, the inadequate canister testing and the initial air-testing results. All parties agreed data collected from air monitoring was disturbing. Lake County Health Dept began to publish air-testing results.

Important points to consider when reviewing this data:  

The US EPA considers any canister reading above 0.02 µg/m³ as the actionable threshold for EtO (meaning the government should step in and do something to fix the problem).

At 0.02 µg/m³ the EPA predicts 100 in a million people will get EtO-caused cancer. If we apply this formula to the 155,000 residents living near the two polluting facilities (Waukegan, Park City, Gurnee, & North Chicago) the incident rate for EtO caused cancer becomes 16 for 155,000 people.

Cancer rates increase exponentially per increase in EtO levels. This means cancer rates increase bigger and faster as canister reading levels go up. So if a canister level reading consistently reads at 0.50 µg/m³ this means 235 people out of 155,000 are predicted to get EtO-caused cancer.

The highest canister reading observed by Vantage, during Summer 2019 testing, was 1.1 µg/m³. Reminder: Vantage already had installed emission controls in April 2019 that was supposed to capture 99.9% of EtO emissions. If 1.1 µg/m³ remains as a consistent EtO reading, this means 469 people out of 155,000 are predicated to get EtO-caused cancer.

The highest amount observed by Medline was 10 µg/m³! This reading is scary high. If 10 µg/m³ remains as a consistent EtO reading, this means 4,694 people out of 155,000 are predicted to get EtO-caused cancer.

This EtO reading is dangerously high. How many times over the years did it reach this level?
Source: LCHD

Recorded levels of EtO emissions were orders of magnitude higher than what the US EPA considers “actionable” and are listed below:

Sample of high readings. These numbers are alarming.
M3 canisters are near Medline, V3 canisters are near Vantage,

R2 canister is Control Canister. Note: 7000 Washington St, Gurnee
is Woodland Middle School, further proof our kids have been exposed to high EtO levels.
Source: LCHD
7000 Washington Street is the address for Woodland Middle School
Warren Township Park is across the street
Why doesn’t Mayor Kovarik and her Village Board speak out against EtO?

Source: Google Maps

Stop EtO organized multiple rallies in Gurnee, Waukegan, and Libertyville, demanding Medline shut down EtO operations until they no longer endangered public health. Congressman Brad Schneider made a similar request. Stop EtO also requested Lake County Health Dept perform continuous air testing for an additional 30-60 days.

And guess what?

Unlike the Sterigenics shutdown Governor Pritzker and IL EPA Director John Kim produced for Willowbrook, they ignored Lake County’s public health crisis and kept Medline open.  

Oh, and the Lake County Health Dept denied our request for more testing too.

Stop EtO Rally

August 2019:

On August 8th, 2019, during a hearing held at the Waukegan City Hall, Medline requested a permit from the City of Waukegan Planning and Zoning committee to increase its facility stack height. Medline and the IL EPA were in favor of raising the stack to 85.3 feet (from the current 60 feet), whereas Stop EtO and hundreds of community members were against it. Medline argued the stack increase was necessary to remain in compliance with IL EPA height requirement. After lengthy deliberation, the committee voted to deny recommending increasing the stack height. 

An increased stack height would not have reduced EtO emissions; rather it would have spread emissions out to a larger area impacting more communities. In addition, maintaining the stack height was necessary to ensure Medline’s installed emission control measures (per law SB1852) were actually effective. A taller stack would have compromised the effectiveness of air testing by camouflaging the problem.

However, this vote was not the final decision on the permit request. The committee could only recommend/not recommend the request. The decision to approve Medline’s request for a taller stack was to be decided by the Waukegan City Council in September.

Also in August, Dr. Susan Buchanan, of the University of Illinois at Chicago, approached Stop EtO about doing a limited pilot study (funded by CDC) measuring EtO hemoglobin-adducts (hemoglobin adducts have been used as biomarkers for at least 30 years and are thought to be especially useful for the estimation of chemical exposures). Her objective was to measure EtO levels in residents who lived near EtO polluters and compare their values to the national average.  Stop EtO canvassed nearby neighborhoods and recruited 100 study participants.   

Waukegan stack height hearing

September 2019:

On Sept 3, 2019, over 200 concerned residents filled the Waukegan City Council to standing room only. Medline brought many of their employees and two IL EPA experts to argue for a taller stack (so much for the IL EPA motto). After much deliberation, the Waukegan City Council unanimously voted 9-0 to deny Medline’s stack increase permit. Soon after, the IL EPA eliminated the stack requirement, ensuring Medline would stay in compliance.

Meanwhile, Stop EtO requested Lake County Health Dept organize a Townhall public meeting to:

  • Explain to Lake County residents the meaning of the air canister test results
  • Notify residents of the next action steps

But the Lake County Health Dept maintained it did not have the scientific knowledge to explain the data to the public. If the Lake County Health Dept does not have the knowledge to explain, then HOW are Lake County residents supposed to trust the decisions they are making on our behalf?

On Sept 13th, 2019, Stop EtO, Stop Sterigenics, and the Illinois Environmental Council (IEC) organized a press conference announcing a new House bill (HB3888) introduced by Representative Rita Mayfield of Waukegan.

HB3888 required EtO polluters to either switch to alternative and safer methods or re-locate within a certain distance away from any school/daycare/dense residential areas by Jan 2021.

HB3888 faced a lot of opposition from the chemical industry. The stakes were high and various lobbyists sent to Springfield were tasked with persuading legislators to kill this bill.

Stop EtO gathered 4600 witness slip signatures in support of HB3888, higher than the total number of signatures of SB1852 and SB1854 combined.

Meanwhile, on Sept 30, 2019, Sterigenics in Willowbrook announced it was shutting down permanently and moving out of the area. The company cited an unstable IL legislative environment.

Thus, less than one year after learning about cancerous ethylene oxide pollution, Willowbrook’s EtO problem was going away, while Lake County’s EtO problem was destined to remain…

Sterigenics leaving Willowbrook headline
Source: CBS Chicago News

Also in September, the state of Michigan levied a $110,000 against Viant, a sterilizer polluting the city of Grand Rapids. Currently, there are no laws in Illinois that fine or shut down EtO polluters for polluting or violating permit, rendering them ineffective.

October 2019:

Senator Melinda Bush organized a Lake County ethylene oxide emissions Town Hall meeting with IL EPA and ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry) at the CLC Grayslake Campus Auditorium. 400 people packed the main auditorium, while another 100 people were routed to a different viewing location. An additional 200 residents watched the event live from the CLC Waukegan campus. You can watch the entire hearing here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCbltfG7mH4

The IL EPA Director, John Kim, attempted to diffuse public anger with long-winded explanations of their processes, whereas officials from the ATSDR focused on explaining the real cancer risks residents faced. At the 1:29:29 minute mark a resident asked the panel this “simple yes or no question: Would you have your family living close to one of these facilities?” Director John Kim gave a rambling answer filled with useless information about permits in attempt to convince concerned residents he would live here. But Dr. Mark Johnson (a top official from ATSDR) said “I would be here with you” (i.e., along with the residents demanding change).


The moment Dr. Mark Johnson (Midwest Regional Director ASTDR)
disagreed with John Kim (Director IL EPA)
about it being safe living near an EtO facility

Source: You Tube

November 2019:

Representative Rita Mayfield presented and defended bill HB3888 on the House floor and it successfully passed the IL House with enough votes.

On November 13, 2019, HB3888, sponsored by Senator John Curran (R – Downer’s Grove) was sent to the Senate Executive Committee. Typically, environmental bills are sent to the Environmental Committee, not the Executive Committee. Senators in safe voting districts (most who do not reside in Lake County or have to breathe Medline and Vantage’s cancerous air pollution) sit on the Executive Committee. It was clear HB3888 was routed to the Executive Committee to die even as Governor Pritzker vowed to sign the bill IF it reached his desk.

Which begs the question, if Pritzker really wanted the bill to reach his desk, couldn’t he (of all people) ensure a Democratic led IL Senate have delivered it to him? Especially given the fact IL Senator Melinda Bush is the CHAIR of Illinois’ Environmental Committee?

As we had feared, the Senate Executive Committee voted not to advance the bill to the Senate floor for a vote. Effectively, Illinois Democrats killed HB 3888 with Present and Nay votes.

Illinois Democrats responsible for killing
HB3888 by voting NAY or PRESENT (the equivalent of a NAY vote)

Source: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/votehistory

In a statement following the committee vote, Medline spokesman Jesse Greenberg said the company was “grateful” to legislators for taking time for “additional study” of the issue.  

Meanwhile, the Lake County Health Dept released air monitoring results from the first few days of Phase II air monitoring. The results showed continued dangerously high readings for Vantage and Medline during November 2019. Extremely high emissions readings occurred on November 13, 2019 (ironically, the same day the IL Senate struck down HB3888 legislation) from canisters near Vantage. Stop EtO suspected an EtO leak occurred during this time.

November 2019 air canister results near Vantage and Medline
EPA actionable level is 0.02 µg/m³
Any value above 1.0 µg/m³ is extremely cancerous

Source: LCHD

December 2019:

Dr. Buchanan mailed participating residents their EtO blood study results. Her conclusions: residents who lived within 0.5-miles from Medline had statistically significant higher levels of EtO hemoglobin adducts than the national average (i.e., their blood levels showed a high concentration of EtO).

SB1852 and SB1854 laws went into effect at end of December 2019, including the IL EPA permits associated with these bills. You can find the permits here: https://www.epa.gov/il/ethylene-oxide-emissions-lake-county-illinois

Tom Hood, Village of Gurnee Board Member, cancels appointment with Stop EtO members, refusing to discuss the option of Home Rule Authority, thus unilaterally deciding the city strategy WITHOUT residents’ input or affect on their health.

January 2020:

Stop EtO hosted a Town Hall meeting with special guest Dr. Susan Buchanan, environmental health researcher from the University of Illinois at Chicago, on January 12, 2020. She presented and answered questions on her CDC-sponsored pilot blood study (she measured EtO levels in hemoglobin adducts, as these adducts are biomarkers useful for estimating chemical exposures). Main meeting takeaways:  

  • Residents living/working within 0.5-miles from Medline had higher EtO hemoglobin-adduct levels compared to the national average. The difference was statistically significant.
  • Children exposed to EtO are at much higher cancer risks than adults.
  • DNA damage from EtO exposure accumulates and is permanent.
  • Residents who displayed the highest EtO hemoglobin adduct levels were encouraged to keep up with yearly breast exams and/or participate in medical health watch programs.
  • Per Dr. Buchanan: EtO should not be emitted anywhere near where people are living because it’s a class 1 known carcinogen.
Picture Source: WebMD

During this Town Hall meeting, Mark Pfister, Executive Director of Lake County Health Dept told attendees that Medline had voluntarily shut down its sterilization operations back on December 13th, 2019, while air testing had been in progress. T

he voluntary shutdown occurred because Medline had not achieved compliance with the new SB1852 law and they needed additional emission controls. Up to this moment, residents were unaware Medline had been shutdown for a full month.

Once again, constituents are left to wonder whose side – people or polluters – State and Lake County officials are on?  

Mark Pfister, Executive Director LCHD.
Does high level of health include breathing cancer-causing EtO?
Source: https://www.lakecountyil.gov

Meanwhile the state of Georgia levies a $51,000 fine against an EtO polluter for not installing pollution controls meant to reduce emissions of ethylene oxide.

Finally, while Lake County and Illinois state legislators continue to pretend EtO isn’t a risk, the federal government pulls funding from a housing project in Waukegan after an environmental review identifies ethylene oxide pollution.

February 2020:

On February 26th, Stop EtO organized a Town Hall meeting with 7 legal firms involved in EtO lawsuits against EtO polluters. The public was invited to ask questions about the litigation process. Due to sensitivity of questions asked, Stop EtO decided not to record this meeting. However, the main legal lessons were:

  • Past cancer patients (prior to Nov 2018) believing they were harmed by EtO pollution have 2 years to file a claim. This “timer” started when the Lake County community was made aware of EtO emissions from Medline and Vantage in November 2018. The Statue of Limitations for Lake County residents ends November 2020.
  • Newly diagnosed cancer patients suspecting EtO is the cause of their cancer should contact a lawyer immediately.
  • Many residents discourage themselves from calling attorneys believing they must prove their cancer was a direct result of EtO exposure. But it is not the resident’s responsibility to prove your or your loved one’s cancer is due to EtO, instead the attorneys will determine that with their own research.
  • The attorneys do not get paid unless they win your case. Therefore, they will not take a case unless they are certain it is winnable. These law firms are invested in getting plaintiffs reimbursed for the costs, pain, suffering, or death EtO emissions have imposed on families.
  • Any resident who may have a claim is encouraged to contact any of the firms involved with EtO litigation. If you have a question, even if you are not actively committed to filing yet, it is best to ask the attorneys directly. Here is the list of EtO litigation firms (Note: Stop EtO has not and does not receive any promotional fees from these firms):
  1. Brian Eldridge – Hart McLaughlin & Eldridge, LLC.  312-955-0545  Website
  2. Shawn Collins – The Collins Law Firm, P.C.  630-527-1595, ext 221.  Website
  3. Brian LaCien – Power Rogers & Smith, LLP. 312-236-9381  Website
  4. Pat Grim – Tomasik Kotin Kasserman, LLC.  312-605-8800  Website
  5. Albert Plawinski – Edelson, P.C. 312-589-6370  Website
  6. Chris Nidel – Nidel & Nace, PLLC. 202-780-5153  Website
  7. Chris Gadoury – The Lanier Law Firm 713-659-5200  Website
  8. Amy Lynn Lonergan – Finn & Finn, Ltd.  847-599-0202 Website (This law firm specializes in environmental law regarding property, zoning ordinances, nuisance law etc.)
  9. Romanucci & Blandin, LLC. 312-458-1000 Website  (This irm was unable to attend meeting but Brian Eldridge from Hart McLaughlin & Eldridge represented them.)

Also in Mid-February, the Village of Gurnee made public a letter stating their legal counsel claimed Gurnee could not use Home Rule Authority to shut down Vantage.

One must question why Mayor Kovarik and the Village of Gurnee Board of Trustees fight so hard to keep Vantage in Gurnee?

In fact, we can’t recall a time when Mayor Kovarik or the Village of Gurnee Board of Trustees have publicly spoken out against EtO pollution. They tend to defer the resolution of EtO pollution to other government agencies.

On February 25th, the CDC stated COVID-19 was heading towards pandemic status. While N95 masks can protect people from COVID-19, they are powerless against cancerous ethylene oxide.

March 2020:

Medline’s sterilization shutdown continued from mid-December 2019 to end of March 2020. At end of March 2020, Medline ramped-up its EtO operations and announced they were using EtO to re-purpose 100,000 N95 masks daily for front line health care workers.

EtO repurposing of N95 masks (i.e., sterilizing used masks) conflicted with the recommendation of 3M, the N95 mask manufacturer: “3M does not recommend the use of Ethylene Oxide or formaldehyde for respirator decontamination due to potential for repeat inhalation exposure to residual ethylene oxide or formaldehyde, known human airborne respiratory carcinogens.” Basically 3M recommended against EtO mask sterilization due to cancer concerns for doctors and nurses.

Think of all the health care workers fighting to save COVID-19 patients wearing Medline repurposed masks, potentially inhaling cancer-causing EtO via the very equipment meant to protect them from harm. And it was all legal.

This VOC mask protects against EtO

April 2020:

Stop EtO held a virtual meeting with the US EPA and IL EPA. We expressed concerns and provided technical evidence about a possible leak observed in Phase II air monitoring (Nov 2019) based on high emission readings from canisters located near Vantage. We requested the IL EPA investigate.

Yet despite our request and detailed analysis that backed up our claim, the IL EPA opted NOT TO INVESTIGATE because Vantage never reported a leak.

Once again, the legislative loophole in laws SB1852 & SB1854 (i.e. the clause depending on polluters to honestly self report violations) puts Lake County residents at risk.

During the meeting we also expressed concerns Medline warehouses were off-gassing EtO (when EtO-sterilized products emit EtO gas while sitting in a warehouse). Our concern was based on recent air monitoring results taken from sterilizer warehouses in Georgia, where it was determined a BD warehouse emitted 5600 pounds of EtO into the surrounding community.

Medline has several Lake County warehouses locations including Libertyville, Mundelein, Waukegan, and one going up in Grayslake. At least two of these warehouses are located less than a mile away from schools and businesses geared towards children – the most vulnerable population. We requested the IL EPA pay for air monitoring near Medline warehouses in Lake County.

The IL EPA responded by saying the air testing they had initially financed was outside their normal operating procedures.

Translation: they would not finance air testing.

So if Illinois state, local, and Lake County governments, along with the Lake County Health Dept (headed by Mark Pfister) are unwilling to pay for more EtO air monitoring, who should – the residents inhaling the pollution?

Why won’t any official Illinois agency pay for more testing to ensure Lake County’s EtO pollution is REALLY resolved, given that April 2020 still showed harmful levels?

Again, levels above 0.02 µg/m³ are considered actionable the US EPA. While a 0.5 µg/m³ reading might look safe, at that rate for a community of 155,000 constituents, approximately 235 innocent victims are predicted to get EtO-caused cancer.

In April, Stop EtO also reached out to Lake County State Attorney Mike Nerheim. We requested he collaborate with the IL EPA and use the same IL Nuisance law State Attorney Bob Berlin of DuPage County used against Sterigenics in Willowbrook, to end EtO pollution in Lake County. This Nuisance Law clearly states the IL EPA should not allow companies to pollute with chemicals that cause air pollution:

Article XI of the Illinois Constitution states it is the legislature’s responsibility to “maintain a healthful environment for the benefit of this and future generations.”  Illinois’ Environmental Protection Act (“the Act”) fulfills this mandate by forbidding any person, including corporate persons, from causing, threatening or allowing the discharge or emission of a contaminant that causes, or tends to cause, air pollution.”

Lake County State Attorney Mike Nerheim was not interested in taking his County polluters to court to help end EtO emissions.

In late April, Stop EtO learned via a meeting with Congressman Schneider’s office that federal money had been set aside for EtO community testing around the nation. But in order to get the money, Stop EtO needed to persuade local agencies to apply for the grant. And we didn’t have much time do it either, because the grant was expiring in a matter of days. (Why weren’t we told about the grant sooner? That’s a really good question. We don’t know the answer). Stop EtO frantically emailed the following people asking them to apply for FREE grant money specifically set aside for EtO testing in communities like ours:

  • Lake County Health Department Executive Director, Mark Pfister
  • Lake County Board Chair, Sandy Hart
  • Lake County Health Board, Tim Sashko
  • Village of Gurnee, Mayor Kristina Kovarik
  • City of Waukegan, Mayor Sam Cunningham

Mark Pfister replied Lake County Health Dept was not interested in further testing.

Mayor Kovarik sent us a caustic email indicating she would not apply and that she was upset by our request and refusal to accept the status quo. Her email even stated that the Village of Gurnee could have applied for the grant, but chose not to.

Everyone else ignored our request and the grant deadline expired.

Mark Pfister of Lake County Health Department saying NO to more air testing via email
Some Lake County officials claim LC has had more air testing than any other area which is FALSE

Meanwhile, other state and community officials jumped at the chance for federal money to monitor ethylene oxide and received hefty grants. Here’s the list: 

  • Utah received $328,459 in federal grants to monitor ethylene oxide
  • Georgia received $571,670 in federal grants to monitor ethylene oxide
  • South Carolina received $261,128 in federal grants to monitor ethylene oxide
  • South Coast (California) received $749,624 in federal grants to monitor ethylene oxide
  • Washington state received $657,840 in federal grants to monitor ethylene oxide
  • Tennessee received $353,516 in federal grants to monitor ethylene oxide

More than $2.9 million dollars were allocated to other states to monitor ethylene oxide, but Lake County, IL, received $0 in federal grants because LOCAL OFFICIALS did not bother to apply!

Once again it appears government officials are more concerned about protecting polluters than they are about protecting Lake County residents.

EPA Regions 10, 9, 8, and 4 all benefited from federal EtO grants
Source: http://www.epa.gov

June 2020:

The Lake County Health Dept released Phase III air monitoring data from April 2020. This was uncompleted (i.e. leftover) testing time due to the December 2019 Medline shutdown. The results continued to show high readings.

Two readings near Vantage were disturbingly high.

Our requests to IL EPA Director John Kim to discuss them were given low priority, as a conversation wouldn’t take place until September, five months after the readings were taken. Fair warning: the conversation will NOT go well for Lake County residents.

Extremely high April 2020 air canister results near Vantage
that the IL EPA would eventually INVALIDATE

Source: LCHD

In addition to the above high readings, EtO levels were consistently over the 0.02 µg/m³ actionable level set by the EPA. Remember, levels ranging between 0.02 µg/m³ and 1.0 µg/m³ still greatly increase cancer rates! Here are the charts for high April readings:

These readings may give the illusion that they are safe,
yet are STILL TOO HIGH to be considered SAFE!
source: LCHD

Currently the ATSDR is using our EtO air monitoring results to conduct a cancer assessment study for Lake County. We were promised this study back in 2019, yet it is projected to be completed in a few months.

Note: the ATSDR released their Willowbrook cancer study in August 2018 – it was this study that brought attention to Illinois’s EtO problem. In addition, the Illinois Dept of Public Health (IDPH) released their Willowbrook cancer study in March 2019 (mere months after Willowbrook’s EtO problem made headlines). Even though it has been 2 years since EtO pollution has been made public, the IDPH has yet to do a cancer study for Lake County.

The state, county, and local governments refuse to pay for any more air testing near Medline and Vantage, relying on self-reporting from polluters.

Stop EtO was told to expect no more air testing.

It is outrageous the IL EPA, the Governor, the Lake County Health Department, and the Lake County State Attorney’s office consider the matter of ethylene oxide pollution resolved. OUR EtO POLLUTION IS FAR FROM RESOLVED.

Sept 2020:

During a meeting with IL EPA Director John Kim, Stop EtO learned the IL EPA officially considered the two high April 2020 readings an “anomaly” because Vantage DID NOT SELF REPORT A LEAK.

In fact, the EPA and the Lake County Health Dept went so far as to invalidate the high April 2020 readings.

Stop EtO has requested full data information, including canister pressures, from the Lake County Health Dept to try to get to the reasons why.

Again, the loophole relying on polluters to self-report continues to put Lake County residents at risk.

There have been four extremely high and unsafe readings near Vantage that the IL EPA labeled as anomalies and refused to act on.

Now for the BOMBSHELL: during this meeting Director John Kim informed Stop EtO that the IL EPA no longer relies on EtO canister readings (a US EPA federally ACCEPTED Method) as according the IL EPA, the method has “issues and is not reliable.”

It should be noted THAT EVERY OTHER STATE IN THE USA uses the federally accepted EtO air canister method for collecting EtO air samples and readings.

Basically, the IL EPA literally just changed the rules of federally accepted air monitoring methods at their discretion.

Stop EtO informed Director Kim that TO-15A (the canister used for testing) is federally accredited for EtO measurements, whereas the methods Lake County polluters use to self-report are NOT. Furthermore, canister readings (method TO-15A) were used in Willowbrook, in two Georgia communities, Michigan, Oregon, etc.

Why is the canister method suddenly not good enough for Lake County?  

Meanwhile, the state of Delaware fines an EtO polluter $249,000 for EtO pollution (if you aren’t keeping track, this is the third example of a state who fined an EtO polluter. Whereas cash-strapped Illinois has not collected one cent from polluter and instead opted to give Medline millions in tax breaks).

Oct 2020:

Stop EtO appealed to the Lake County Board’s Environmental Committee to officially change the wording on their new 2020 Legislative Agenda draft. Currently, the Lake County Board is suggesting they only “monitor EtO legislation.”

Monitoring legislation is NOT enough! We need the Lake County Board to *ACTIVELY SUPPORT* future EtO legislation and insist legislative loopholes are closed.

Lake County Board EtO Agenda needs to be STRONGER for the
physical and financial health of Lake County Residents.
Source: lakecountylegistar.com

In fact, moving forward we would like the Lake County Board to be more involved in resolving Lake County’s EtO pollution.

The Lake County Board has a lobbyist, paid for with our tax dollars, who could be lobbying Springfield politicians on our behalf, but is not!

And consider this: EtO pollution not only hurts the physical health of Lake County residents, it has the potential to negatively impact county financial aspects too.

In 2018, tourism in Lake County brought in $1.43 billion dollars. Great America, Gurnee Mills, and Great Wolf Lodge are some of the most important revenue generators in our county and they are all located in Gurnee, near Medline and Vantage.

Lake County has an obligation to keep these family destinations safe, especially since the Village of Gurnee has not risen to the challenge, so that tourists will feel comfortable frequenting Lake County attractions.

In addition, EtO pollution in Lake County can hurt property values as home buyers move to communities without a CANCER problem.

Moving Forward:

Stop EtO has one goal: end EtO air pollution in our county.

No matter how many times polluters and some government officials say EtO facilities are safe, the truth is ethylene oxide pollution is still occurring in Lake County despite new laws meant to protect us.

EtO levels above 0.02 µg/m³ increases cancer risks. Many April 2020 readings were above this actionable level.

EtO-caused cancer is PREVENTABLE CANCER!

Any official not WORKING to stop Eto-caused cancer IS NOT DOING THEIR JOB!

Stop EtO receives many private messages from residents with cancer and their stories are always heartbreaking. The number of people battling cancer in our area, especially children and young people, is overwhelming.

That companies continue to make profits at the expense of the health of Illinois residents is a sad testament to the priorities of our state.

That local and state officials are not as aggressive in their approach to ethylene oxide pollution in Lake County as they were with Willowbrook, is something all Lake County residents should question.

Tears of Abraham Lincoln
Lincoln Memorial
Photo credit: Wernher Krutein

As a reminder, ethylene oxide laws SB1852 and SB1854 have the following loopholes:

1) Reliance on polluters to detect and self-report EtO emissions and leaks.

2)  No requirements for continuous fence-line monitoring using federally accepted methods.

3)  No lawful total emission caps for SB1852 and SB1854 (IL EPA permits contain caps, but permits are not laws. Without laws, permit violations are meaningless).

4) No significant penalties for non-compliance of occurring leaks. Without penalties, violations are meaningless.

5) Emissions are allowed to be calculated with methods not federally recognized, thus allowing any ‘passing’ emissions to be legally accepted and rubber-stamped by IL EPA.

What Can You Do?

Stop EtO has a lot of work ahead. We cannot do it without the help of Lake County residents. The polluters have deep pockets and wield a lot of power with IL legislators.

Residents must voice their desire for ethylene pollution to end with their elected officials.  Without community involvement EtO emissions will continue to poison our air.

We have reached a point where non-responsive elected officials hindering progress or denying there is an issue must be voted out.

In addition, it is important residents help Stop EtO increase awareness of this pollution to neighbors and friends, as the pandemic has curbed our ability to hold public meetings. One easy way is to convince them to read this post. You can share it via email or social media using this link: https://bit.ly/3kM9Js3

Finally, please consider donating to Stop EtO, a non-profit 501(c)4 organization. 100% of contributions go towards raising awareness and funding potential independent air testing in Lake County since our state and county officials refuse to pay for additional testing. In fact, Stop EtO wants to acknowledge and thank all the residents who have ever donated money to our cause.

Thank you for your time! Please spread the word and help us increase awareness.

EtO Emissions and Warehouses – Why It Matters to Libertyville, Mundelein, Waukegan, and Grayslake Residents

Since harmful EtO can be passed on to patients and medical staff during treatments, the CDC requires EtO sterilized medical equipment be off-gassed to remove all residual traces. In fact, EtO is so toxic, the Illinois State Medical Society and those scientists not controlled by the chemical industry recommend EtO be used only on equipment where other sterilization methods won’t work.

How does Medline get around this recommendation?

Medline specializes in making custom order packs for their customers. These custom packs can contain up to 200 items including draping, gowns, gauze, and other devices. By including at least one item in the pack needing EtO sterilization, Medline can justify sterilizing the entire pack with EtO. However, many pack items can be sterilized using safer methods. Medline admits they choose to sterilize in packs because they “control the entire supply chain” and thus “leverage economies of scale.” In essence, this unnecessary bulk sterilization allows Medline to maximize profits.

Why does this matter?

Not only does bulk sterilization result in unnecessary EtO use and cancerous air pollution, mass EtO sterilized products need to off-gas. Medline has 4 warehouses in Lake County: 1 in Libertyville, 2 in Waukegan, 1 in Mundelein, plus one under construction in Grayslake. StopEtO suspects off-gassing takes place in these warehouses. It’s a valid concern as Georgian officials proved a sterilizer warehouse released an estimated 5,600 pounds of ethylene oxide annually near an Atlanta suburb. It appears these warehouses can release as much EtO as the actual sterilization facility.

Keep in mind federal and Illinois state regulations for EtO warehouse emissions don’t exist. In fact, Georgia only learned about EtO warehouse emissions because officials chose to test out of an abundance of concern.

StopEtO met with the IL EPA (via Zoom) in early April 2020 to explain Georgia’s findings. At that time, we also requested the IL EPA do air monitoring at Medline’s Lake County warehouses. But the IL EPA refused, claiming Illinois EtO companies were “not like the ones in Georgia.”

Confused?

So were we. Why would the IL EPA (the agency tasked with providing a healthy environment for IL citizens) refuse to do air testing, especially when another state with the same issue did? Not only was our request denied, IL agencies, including the Lake County Health Department, said  they finished testing and will do NO MORE.

In June 2019, Governor Pritzker issued an EtO press release stating, “Protecting the health and well-being of the people of Illinois has always been my top priority, and I’m proud that this legislation keeps dangerous pollutants out of our communities.” Unfortunately, ethylene oxide laws 1852 & 1854 have loopholes that still leave residents under a cancerous cloud of air pollution.

Given Medline warehouses are located throughout Lake County, it is time Libertyville, Mundelein, and Grayslake residents stop assuming they are safe from ethylene oxide air pollution.

Please share this post: https://bit.ly/3c31TXj

Medline Warehouse Locations

Lake County EtO Emissions STILL at Cancerous Levels

Despite polluting companies and the Lake County Health Department spinning spring 2020 canister readings as acceptable, EtO pollution still registers at UNSAFE amounts and above permitted levels. In addition, Illinois has done ZERO to monitor warehouses storing EtO treated products even though StopEtO raised concerns to IL EPA (the agency meant to protect Illinois citizens). Why Illinois officials have not addressed these Spring 2020 readings speaks to weak laws and an indifference to help Illinois communities continuing to face dire air pollution producing life-threatening consequences.

Just how serious is the problem?

The USEPA set acceptable EtO levels at 0.02 ug/m3 which means at this reading, the EPA expects 100 people in 1 million to get cancer based on EtO exposure. All spring 2020 canister readings registered above 0.02 ug/m3. And two readings were insanely high: 5.49 ug/m3 and 4.12 ug/m3 (most likely indicating a leak). These numbers are DANGEROUS to human health. Cancer risks exponentially rise for every 0.01 ug/m3 increase!  

So exactly what does this mean for residents of Lake County?

We took the cancer risks per million and reduced them down to a level that reflects population figures in line with Lake County. What follows are expected cancer cases that can directly be tied to EtO exposure based on canister readings, calculated and adjusted to reflect a population of 150,000 people:

A baseline 0.02 ug/m3 reading = 15 Lake County residents will get cancer from EtO

A 0.1 ug/m3 reading = 74 Lake County residents will get cancer from EtO

A 0.2 ug/m3 reading = 149 Lake County residents will get cancer from EtO

A 0.3 ug/m3 reading = 223 Lake County residents will get cancer from EtO

A 0.4 ug/m3 reading = 297 Lake County residents will get cancer from EtO

A 0.5 ug/m3 reading = 372 Lake County residents will get cancer from EtO

A 0.6 ug/m3 reading = 446 Lake County residents will get cancer from EtO

A 0.7 ug/m3 reading = 520 Lake County residents will get cancer from EtO

A 0.8 ug/m3 reading = 595 Lake County residents will get cancer from EtO

A 0.9 ug/m3 reading = 669 Lake County residents will get cancer from EtO

A 1.0 ug/m3 reading = 743 Lake County residents will get cancer from EtO

A 4.0 ug/m3 reading = 2,973 Lake County residents will get cancer from EtO

A 5.0 ug/m3 reading = 3,716 Lake County residents will get cancer from EtO

How dare Lake County residents be subjected to cancerous air pollution so that companies can turn a profit? Air BELONGS to everyone. The lack of urgency some Illinois officials have towards our ethylene oxide pollution is intolerable and unacceptable. The mantra we’ve been told time and time again, “Families in affected areas can breathe easy. Illinois now has the strictest safeguards in the nation” unfortunately is not yet true. Lake County residents are still breathing cancerous air. The time to DEMAND a real solution is NOW.

StopEtO recently reached out to many Lake County November candidates asking them how they intend to resolve Lake County’s EtO air pollution, an issue still hurting our communities despite laws 1852 & 1854 that were supposed to protect us. We will be posting their responses (or non-responses, which in itself is a response) within the next 10 days.

Please share this post to spread the word (https://bit.ly/2ReNQnX). Many people are still unaware of risks, some officials insist on ignoring the problem, and Lake County’s EtO pollution continues to REMAIN a public health crisis.

To subscribe to StopEtO’s mailing list: https://bit.ly/3k3HHr8

Donate to StopEtO here: gf.me/u/ydhxgb or here: https://bit.ly/33kJPnJ

EXPOSING A DANGEROUS LIE

On 8/5/20 the Village of Gurnee (VoG) posted an EtO update filled with LIES in coordination with the Illinois EPA regarding EtO testing results near Vantage.

We realize this is a heavy accusation. BUT, allow us to explain.

VoG just claimed Vantage is within IEPA permit limits, implying the EtO emission problem is solved.

It is not!

Why would they do such a thing? We believe they want to control the narrative prior to any new legislative sessions in hopes of preventing stricter EtO regulations. And why would they want to do that? LOL! It’s Illinois, Land of Lincoln, oops, Land of Political Corruption. Plus, when have you ever heard Mayor Kovarik embrace Gurnee has an EtO problem?

Regardless of WHY, here’s HOW we substantiated our conclusion:  

Vantage’s IEPA permit only allows them to emit a total of 110 pounds of EtO per year. Yet based on our calculations, Vantage emitted 560 pounds of EtO in April 2020 alone.

And if Vantage monthly emission rates resemble April 2020, then they are on track to release 6,770 pounds of EtO this year (far beyond what they self-reported last year).

Either way, they appear to be over their permitted limit. How do we know? LCHD collected data. The Lake County Health Dept tested air samples near Vantage in April 2020. (ILEPA paid for testing in order to confirm the newly installed Vantage and Medline emission controls worked as intended).  The April testing was meant to allow ILEPA to wipe its hands clean of Lake County’s EtO issue.

Unfortunately, it appears April “safe” EtO emissions test bombed. We’ve analyzed the data using AERMOD, the software the US EPA uses to determine emissions. We also used US EPA parameters for our calculations to estimate emissions from Vantage using LCHD’s raw data.

There are so many reasons why you should believe StopEtO and NOT the VoG and the ILEPA.

Mainly, you don’t need fancy software to see what we see. Literally anyone who looks at these values can immediately tell emissions are high. For this you need to know just 2 things:

1.) The best EtO background level we think Lake County can achieve is approximately 0.16 μg/m3. (This background value is registered as an average compiled during December 2019 when Medline temporarily shutdown and is coincidentally similar to Willowbrook’s background level post Sterigenics closure.)

2.) According to Vantage’s ILEPA permit, emissions should be averaging 0.0142 μg/m3.

To determine if canister readings are higher than permit allows, we can add the background level and Vantage’s predicted contribution. Thus, 0.16 + 0.0142 = 0.1742. So, if Vantage is operating within permit limits, canisters should record values near 0.1742 μg/m3. Let’s round that to 0.2 μg/m3 for simplicity’s sake.

Depending on wind direction, any canisters reading higher than 0.2 μg/m3 should be ringing alarm bells, for the US EPA established their “actionable limit” at 0.02 μg/m3, which corresponds to a 100-in-a-million lifetime cancer risk. Anything above that level dramatically raises cancer risks.

Now let’s look at some April canister readings just near Vantage. Many show at least one or more readings above 0.2 μg/m3; most vary around ~0.5 to 0.8 ug/m3.

Note, there are more like the above readings but we didn’t include them because they are so repetitive. But look at the 4/19/2020 readings below. They record at 5.49 ug/m3 and 4.12ug/m3! They are dangerously high! Bad cancer-causing high! The kind of readings no resident wants their Mayor, County, or State government to ignore.

Yet here we are. Faced with the fact the Village of Gurnee is flat out lying to residents to protect polluters. Meanwhile, children in Gurnee and Waukegan continue to get leukemia and lymphomas.

Utterly disgraceful. Criminal even.

Please share this post with your social network. EtO education is extremely important for our community. Lake County must not become invisible.

And one last thing, EtO prices hit an all time March low of $0.10 per pound. Meaning polluters and some politicians measure our lives and health in mere pennies and will do everything to keep cheap EtO the norm because safer alternatives are more expensive (and take away from political contributions).


DEMAND legislators push for stronger laws to protect us. DEMAND clean air.

Thank you and stay healthy!

THE GENESIS OF A MAYORAL LIE

I don’t know about you, but I never paid much attention to Mayor Kovarik and her board of trustees. And to quote America’s most famed and beloved prostitute Vivian Ward that was a “big mistake. Big. Huge.”

But no more.

In order to understand how Kovarik and her board of trustees view ethylene oxide use in Gurnee I did one simple thing: I Googled Mayor Kovarik and ethylene oxide.

My first hit, a March 01, 2019 Chicago Tribune article, yielded an iridium nugget from Mayor Kovarik regarding “activist groups” and EtO that succinctly captured her disdain for anyone opposing her innocuous viewpoints on ethylene oxide:

Kovarik said, “there is a lot of misinformation being put out there by activist groups, further muddying the waters.’”

Huh.

Misinformation of “activists” is a hefty accusation. One I needed to see and hear for myself. Fortunately, the Village of Gurnee Board meetings are posted on You Tube. So off to the internet I went to watch meetings leading up to the March 2019 Trib article. What follows is a summary of each meeting and an account of what I learned…

(Buckle up kids, this ride ain’t for the faint of heart.)

During the first post-Trib article Village meeting (11/12/2018) Kovarik prefaced the public comment period by stating residents should not consider public comments as invitations for the board to engage in either dialogue or discussion. In other words, the almighty Queen and her faithful serving Lords shan’t indulge lowly peasants with the gift of their spoken words. Kovarik also clarified she would defer ethylene oxide issues to Lake County and the EPA for answers, thus providing Gurnee residents expecting a pro-active approach from their elected officials with their first whiff of Mayoral disappointment.

Several residents expressed deep concerns regarding elevated cancer risks associated with living near plants using EtO. One commenter familiar with local governing laws made it clear Gurnee had Home Rule Authority and didn’t need to wait for the EPA to make new rules. This commenter also went on to state how then Illinois Attorney General (Lisa Madigan) and DuPage County State Attorney (Robert Berlin) filed a lawsuit against Sterigenics for EtO emissions that registered lower than what was reported in Lake County. He asked that the IL AG and Lake County State Attorney (Mike Nerheim) do the same on behalf of Lake County. As we now know this hasn’t happened and most likely never will as Kwame Raoul is busy doing I-don’t-know-what and Mike Nerheim is busy suing Juul over e-cigarettes.

During the public comment segment, nothing I heard from the “activists” came close to disseminating “misinformation” that “muddied the waters.”

Back to You Tube for meeting 11/26/2018 and more research.

During this session, one resident citied study after study confirming EtO is the dangerous carcinogen we know it to be, including a 1981 National Institute Occupational Safety & Health study, a National Toxicology Program of the U.S Heath Human Services report, a 2016 EPA study, an OSHA fact sheet, an EPA declaration on EtO and children, and a WHO study on EtO. The preponderance of evidence she provided would have made Erin Brokovich shimmy in her high-heeled shoes.

Other residents got up and provided compelling information in a respectful manner. One particular resident’s astute public comments gave me an especially fiery case of heartburn that required two Tums. This resident explained he discovered (through the Freedom of Information Act) that Medline hired “scientist” Dr. Mary Jane Teta from Exponent (a consulting company in Menlo Park, California) and sent her EtO study TO THE MAYOR in November 2018. Meaning the Mayor received an ethylene oxide study from a consultant scientist hired by Medline.

Another resident questioned why the Mayor and her board of trustees hadn’t released EtO information to residents. In addition, this resident explained how the EPA misled ethylene oxide cancer risks as 100 in 1 million or greater. In actuality, per the EPA, the cancer risks in Willowbrook, home to Sterigenics, were closer to 6.4 in 1,000 or 1 cancer case per every 156 residents. (Note, given ethylene oxide emissions in Lake County were higher than in Willowbrook during the same period, it is not a leap to assume this rate applies to Gurnee).

The mayor reacted appropriately to this 1 cancer case per every 156 resident statistic, if appropriately was defined as blinking mindlessly and remaining silent and unmoved.

Let me rephrase…

Kovarik received ethylene oxide “science” from someone PAID by Medline to purposely SKEW proven scientific information. Could this be the reason why Kovarik (against all reasonable judgement) appears to believe ethylene oxide isn’t as hazardous as practically everyone else in Gurnee believes it is? And did y’all know there’s a whole industry built around helping industries obfuscate real scientific literature? (I will most likely post about this in the future.)

In the meantime, I heard no statements made by “activists” that spread misinformation.

The 12/3/2018 Board Meeting yielded pretty much the same type of public responses regarding ethylene oxide: residents expressed fear Kovarik was punting local air pollution issues to the federal and state levels, valid concerns over the potential of EtO plant explosions were raised, and lobbying efforts by industry to keep EtO regulations at bay were noted. Mostly it was everyday residents begging our local government to do something. At no point did I hear “misinformation that muddied the waters.” But I did hear something I hadn’t heard during the previous two meetings.

Sighs.

Specifically aggravated sighs picked up by the Mayor’s mic. Sighs that if given the potential to manifest into physical matter, would have solidly slapped every commenter in the face. Twice.

The 12/17/2018 public comments upped the ante. Residents demanded local level action on EtO instead of the deferment tactics Kovarik and her board of trustees employed. Residents stated their concerns over the lack of local response and transparency. They also brought up the explosive nature of ethylene oxide. In fact, I learned EtO is so potent it is used to make thermobaric bombs which are considered the most powerful non-nuclear bombs in the world. (To be honest, after hearing this particular revelation, I had two choices. See if it was true or go pour myself a glass of bourbon. I chose to see if it was true. A Google search verified indeed it was. Turns out I ended up pouring myself a glass of bourbon anyway).

As with past meetings, Kovarik and her board sat silent, immune to the pleas of their constituents. All “activist” EtO information checked out as valid.

At the 1/7/2019 meeting more residents begged Kovarik for action. Some spoke of EtO sterilization alternatives (in case you didn’t know, we are being poisoned by Vantage because they use EtO to make CONSUMER PRODUCTS). Others spoke of how EtO emissions can be traced from both stack sources (purposely released into the air) and fugitive sources (accidentally released via faulty pipes, human error, and God knows what else). One 10 year-old girl even commented on her concern over EtO.

Alas, there was no misinformation from the public; and keeping with status quo, Kovarik et al showed no empathy for residential pleas either.

THEN THE 1/28/2018 MEETING HAPPENED.

Right off the bat, Kovarik suspended initial public comment. Given that a snowstorm had practically kept everyone away, it didn’t affect many people. But then that wily Kovarik did something completely unexpected. She made a motion to change the traditional order of future meeting agendas by requiring public comments be made at the END of meetings instead of at the beginning; thus, anyone wanting to comment to the Queen Mayor and her board of Lords trustees now had to sit through a bunch of boring bureaucratic crap before being treated like the worthless annoyances that they were. Of course, her board of trustees unanimously and eagerly agreed…

The Village brought in guest speakers for the meeting. Kovarik announced the first speaker, Larry Macke, Director Environmental Health at Lake County Health Department and Community Health Center, with the kind of giddiness reminiscent of expectant children on Christmas morning.

During Lackey’s presentation, it became apparent Lake County would commit to the same strategy Kovarik employed: rely heavily on the US EPA (the same department responsible for withholding EtO concerns for years) and the IL EPA (the same department unable to ban EtO in Gurnee due to lack of legislation) to deal with the issue. No wonder why Kovarik was so cheerful.

One particularly telling moment occurred when (previous) Trustee Jacobs asked Lackey about when Vantage was “tagged” for two prior violations in 2015 and 2016. Much like Jimmy Milski, the third string running back on my peewee football team who couldn’t hang on to a ball even if I Superglued it to his hands, Lackey fumbled through his answer by admitting, “there were two [Vantage] violations and I didn’t explore those and I should have.” Lackey couldn’t say much about the violations except that he believed they were not emission violations, but rather plant violations, and oh for the LOVE of God by the time he was done with his convoluted explanation I had to refill my drink.

Next up, Melinda Bush. She discussed EtO and medical sterilization, and in my humble opinion, she could have educated herself more on the alternatives to ethylene oxide. However, given the meeting took place in early 2019, I’ll give her a pass.

After Senator Bush came Fire Chief John Kavanagh. That’s when Kovarik went all Hiroshima and declared, “There has been some mischaracterizations at previous meetings at the public microphone about hazmat response and, um, how it would be handled so I asked Chief Kavanagh to kinda walk us through our emergency response in how he interacts with Vantage or our department interacts with Vantage.”

HOLD UP.

Now I can unequivocally state that between November 2018 through February 28, 2019 I hadn’t heard ANY mischaracterization on the handling of Gurnee Fire Dept Hazmat’s response as it pertained to any local plant, including Vantage. In fact, I had not heard anything to date that was a misrepresentation of ethylene oxide and my conclusions are easy enough to check, just go watch those meetings yourself.

Thus, either the Mayor misheard something during the previous meetings (possible, what with all that sighing going on) or she flat out lied. In fact, in my opinion if anyone aught be accused of mischaracterization, it should be Kovarik.

Nonetheless this was the moment when Kovarik, free from the rebuke and accountability of absent public commenters, PLANTED THE OUTLANDISH NOTION THAT CITIZENS WERE CRAZY ACTIVISTS LYING ABOUT ETO.

What a dirty bird.

During the 2/4/2019 meeting, commenters asked for independent (i.e. non-industry sponsored) EtO monitoring, something Kovarik was reluctant to do. In addition, Kovarik took umbrage with one public commenter’s stance on EtO dangers and instructed Trustee Andy to note that, “the map Mr. Horath referred to is based on modeling, it’s a tool for agencies, to prioritize where they may, [she paused here a moment to self-correct] the places they may wish to study further to better understand POSSIBLE [emphasis on POSSIBLE] risks to public health and that’s the way it’s intended, I’ll give the definition directly from the EPA.”

Kovarik was of course talking about the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) modeling map, a tool used to accurately estimate cancer rates in lieu of actually waiting for real people to get cancer. Kovarik was hell-bent on ensuring on record that cancer rates were categorized as only POSSIBLE.

What a dirty, dirty bird.

Overall, the one noticeable theme I found in all these recorded village meetings (besides residential concerns over toxic air) was Kovarik’s UNWILLINGNESS to admit to ethylene issue health risks. It’s frankly alarming, confounding, and irresponsible.

The February 25th 2019 meeting was about tourism…specifically that Gurnee paid $48,000 to explore building a sport complex of some sort. Public commenters got up and again asked Gurnee to pay for independent monitoring (notice a pattern of residents pleading for common sense action). And more people got up to beg the Mayor to respond more forcibly.

But NOT ONE SINGLE commenter, or activist, lied, misrepresented the facts, or muddied the waters at the mic.

NOT ONE.

Honestly? After watching residents plead for months for our local Gurnee government to do something about this issue, and knowing what Mayor and her board of trustees have chosen NOT to do, I’ve come to a grave conclusion:

None of the Trustees, or the Mayor, should be allowed the honor of representing Gurnee in any capacity once their terms are up. They are all complicit in the continued poisoning of our air.

Go ahead, pull the videos and watch for yourself.

Come to a meeting and see for yourself.

Google Kovarik and read for yourself.

In the end I imagine you might come to one conclusion:

Kovarik and her board of trustees are just as lethal to the residents of Gurnee as is ethylene oxide.

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