• Oct 23, 2019, 11:45 AM

Ethylene Oxide Update: October 23, 2019

Ethylene Oxide Update: October 23, 2019

The Village of Gurnee continues to work with county, state and federal officials to address concerns regarding the use of the chemical ethylene oxide (EtO), at Vantage Specialty, Inc. facility located at 3938 Porett Drive, Gurnee.  Mayor Kristina Kovarik remains in regular communication with county, state and federal officials to share the concerns of the community and to receive agency and legislative updates.  The following developments and communications have occurred since the last formal Village update provided on October 7, 2019:

Village of Gurnee/City of Waukegan/Lake County Health Department: On October 2, 2019 the Mayor and entire Board of Trustees attended the informational town hall session on ethylene oxide hosted by Senator Melinda Bush.  A recording of the session has been posted on the Village’s YouTube channel.  In addition, the PowerPoint presentations that were reviewed that evening have been posted on the Village’s website at:

IEPA Presentation - Lake County EtO Town Hall 10.2.19 Final
ATSDR Presentation - Lake County EtO Town Hall 10.2.19 Final

The ATSDR’s presentation on October 2nd stated that the data provided thus far has been useful for screening for the presence of EtO in ambient air, however it cannot be used to generalize short- or long-term exposures and additional sampling is warranted and is being planned (ie: second round of testing to be conducted by GHD) (slide 8).  The ATSDR presentation continued to state the results of initial EtO air monitoring data at the Lake County locations are well below concentrations that cause immediate health effects in scientific studies and evaluation of long-term exposure is not based on individual daily measurements, but on exposure data over months and years (slide 14).  Finally, it was stated that background levels of EtO, that is the level that would be present from other sources whether a facility using ethylene oxide operated within the area or not, generally range from 0.1 micrograms per cubic meter to 0.3 micrograms per cubic meter (slide 12).

At the October 21st Village Board meeting, the Gurnee Village Board approved an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) to fund additional air sampling.  Per the IGA, the IEPA will reimburse the Village up to $87,500 for additional ethylene oxide ambient air sampling near the Vantage Specialty Chemicals facility.  In addition that same night, the Village Board approved a contract with GHD Services, Inc. to conduct a second round of air sampling.  GHD is the same firm Gurnee, Waukegan and the Lake County Health Department used for the first round of sampling which took place in June and July (results can be found here).  The second round of sampling will take place over a sixty-day time period, with samples being taken every third day from six separate locations.  The Lake County Health Department is once again overseeing the process. 

The additional data gathered will be forwarded to the National Center for Environmental Health/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to assist in conducting a health risk assessment on the impact of ethylene oxide emissions from Vantage in Gurnee and Medline in Waukegan. 

In addition to the recently scheduled second round of sampling, a third round of sampling is also planned.  This sampling will be funded by the IEPA under an agreement approved on June 17, 2019.  Pursuant to the agreement, the IEPA provided $62,500 to be used to conduct additional ambient air sampling following installation of additional controls and instrumentation at Vantage Specialty, Inc. and Medline Industries.  The third round of sampling will take place over a thirty-day time period, with samples being taken every third day from six separate locations.  GHD will collect the samples and the Lake County Health Department will once again oversee the process. 

The combination of second and third rounds of sampling will result in 180 samples total over a 90-day period. 

Illinois General Assembly:  Two bills related to ethylene oxide were recently introduced in the House and could be discussed during the upcoming Veto Session.  As a reminder, Vantage Specialty, Inc. is NOT a sterilizer.

HB3885 – Introduced September 6, 2019 – Representative Durkin

 Summary: Amends the Environmental Protection Act. Provides that nothing within provisions regarding the control of ethylene oxide sterilization sources shall limit the ability of a home rule unit of local government to adopt an ordinance that imposes additional operating restrictions upon or prohibits ethylene oxide sterilization operations of a facility that is located within the boundaries of the home rule unit of local government and is permitted to emit ethylene oxide.

Residents interested in filing a Witness Slip indicating their position on this proposed piece of legislation are encouraged to do so by October 28, 2019 at:


HB3888 – Introduced September 13, 2019 – Representative Mayfield

Summary: Amends the Environmental Protection Act. Provides requirements for the prohibition of the conduct of ethylene oxide sterilization operations or other activities that emit ethylene oxide (and, for ethylene oxide sterilization sources, propylene oxide). Requires entities to submit a plan to the Environmental Protection Agency describing how they will continuously collect emissions information. Provides requirements for emissions monitoring and testing. Requires specified hospitals to submit a plan to the Agency describing how the hospital will phase out the emissions of ethylene oxide by an established deadline. Provides that when issuing permits to ethylene oxide sterilization sources, hospitals, and ethylene oxide emissions sources, the Agency shall include limitations on the amount of ethylene oxide that may be stored on-site to protect public health, public safety, and the environment. Requires storage of ethylene oxide in excess of 100 pounds to be underground. Provides that the unit of local government in which an ethylene oxide sterilization source, hospital, or ethylene oxide emissions source is located may regulate the storage and location of ethylene oxide in a manner that is more restrictive or matches the standards established by the Agency. Requires the Agency to set annual emissions limitations on ethylene oxide for all ethylene oxide emissions sources. Provides that, on and after January 1, 2022, the maximum cumulative emissions from any sum of ethylene oxide emissions sources located within 3 and one half miles of each other shall not exceed 35 pounds annually. Requires the Agency to conduct a comprehensive review of ethylene oxide use and emissions within the State and to submit its findings in a report to the General Assembly.

Residents interested in filing a Witness Slip indicating their position on this proposed piece of legislation are encouraged to do so by October 28, 2019 at:


The process for how a bill becomes a law in Illinois can be viewed here: http://www.ilga.gov/commission/lis/98bill_law.pdf

You can find additional information on ethylene oxide and follow all updates from the Village of Gurnee on the topic here: www.gurnee.il.us/EtO

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