• Dec 14, 2018, 10:56 AM

Ethylene Oxide - December 14th Update

The Village of Gurnee continues to work with local, state and federal officials to address concerns regarding ethylene oxide, specifically as it relates to Vantage Specialty Chemical located at 3938 Porett Drive, Gurnee. On Wednesday, November 28th, the Village was invited to participate in a conversation with the US Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 and US EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation Bill Wehrum. The meeting was primarily an opportunity for the US EPA to provide background information on the process for modeling toxic emissions used for the National Air Toxics Assessment maps and the data gathered for the Toxic Release Inventory Reports.  The EPA then explained the reason for increased scrutiny and the next steps going forward.  The US EPA also discussed screening tools that the Agency uses to determine where additional attention may be needed.  It stated this additional attention includes reviewing regulations as well as looking at facilities on a case-by-case basis to understand how ethylene oxide is being used and what controls are in place.  This information can then be used to determine what additional regulations may be necessary.  The US EPA stressed that this information gathering and analysis takes time.  As it relates to Vantage Specialty Chemicals, the US EPA reaffirmed Vantage will be voluntarily installing a secondary scrubber on its emissions stack with the construction expected to take place in the first quarter of 2019. It also stated that voluntary fence line testing at Vantage will be conducted under EPA guidelines, including the EPA reviewing the test plans and providing input on any improvements to the plan it deems necessary.  This testing will be conducted over a 30 day period, 24 hours a day.  The US EPA acknowledged that Vantage’s testing plan is much more detailed than any perimeter testing that has been performed at other ethylene oxide facilities to date.   Local leaders from the Lake County Health Department, the City of Waukegan and the Village of Gurnee were then afforded the opportunity to ask questions of the US EPA and relayed to the agency our concerns regarding the safety of our communities.

On Monday, December 3rd, Mayor Kovarik met with Vantage Specialty Chemical’s senior management and participated in a plant tour.  Also in attendance was Congressman Brad Schneider, representatives from Senator Tammy Duckworth and Senator Dick Durbin’s offices, State Senator Melinda Bush, Lake County Chairwoman Sandy Hart, Lake County Board Members Steve Carlson Paul Frank and Village Administrator Pat Muetz.  Vantage shared background information about the company and facility, as well as processes used at the plant.  The group then toured the facility, including viewing the ethylene oxide storage area, transport system and emissions stack. Following the tour, Vantage reviewed the revised ethylene oxide emission estimates, which have been submitted to the US EPA.   The information submitted is based on a combination of actual monitoring results, as well as modeling in instances where an established history of monitoring results are not yet available.  Vantage presented information on its safety protocols, including its Leak Detection and Repair Program (LDAR) and how this program relates to emission estimates.  Vantage advised that as more monitoring data is collected, the emission estimates are refined to provide more accurate data and information.  The visit concluded with Vantage confirming that it is undertaking efforts to voluntarily install a second scrubber, which is scheduled to be completed in the first quarter of 2019.  After installation, stack emissions are expected to be reduced to under 10lbs per year.