The Sterigenics medical device sterilization plant in Willowbrook, Ill., will remain closed for at least five more weeks, according to local news reports.
The DuPage County judge overseeing litigation about the plant’s emissions of the sterilant ethylene oxide (EO) ruled Wednesday that Willowbrook and three other municipalities that surround it can join the lawsuit. Willowbrook, Darien, Burr Ridge and Hinsdale have a month to file a joint brief with the court. The state attorney general’s office and Sterigenics would then have one week to reply, making Sept. 6, 2019, the earliest the plant could reopen.
Sterigenics and the state of Illinois Environmental Protection Agency reached a consent agreement July 17 to reopen the plant, pending the judge’s approval. The state EPA ordered the plant closed in February, citing excessive EO emissions, which is considered carcinogenic. In June, the state passed a tough new law regulating the discharge of the gas. The plant processed millions of medical devices annually, and its sudden closure caused some device shortages and a push by the FDA to come up with different methods to replace and improve EO sterilization.
Some local officials have vowed to fight the plant resuming operations.
“Sterigenics can never open again,” Burr Ridge mayor Gary Grasso told WGN-TV.
“I don’t think any of us would be happy until EtO is banned in the state of Illinois and Sterigenics is prohibiting from opening,” added Darien mayor Joseph Marchese.
“We are confident that the Consent Order will be approved in due course,” Sterigenics said in a statement to Medical Design & Outsourcing. “Our Willowbrook operations have consistently complied with and outperformed the State’s requirements and we are committed to abiding by the new requirements established by the State. Sterigenics will continue to take the necessary steps to resume operations at Willowbrook and remains committed to acting in the interest of the community, our employees, our customers and the patients and hospitals we serve every day.”