• Jan 18, 2019, 13:08 PM

Ethylene Oxide - January 18th Update

January 18, 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 the Vantage Specialty, Inc facility located at 3938 Porett Drive, Gurnee.  Mayor Kristina Kovarik remains in regular communication with 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 Village update provided on December 14, 2018:

Vantage Specialty, Inc (Vantage):  Village staff met with representatives from Vantage Specialty, Inc on January 14, 2019 and received an update on efforts to reduce ethylene oxide emissions.  Vantage reported that plans to install a second (dry) scrubber to further reduce stack emissions remains on schedule for implementation in the first quarter of 2019.  Vantage also continues to review its Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) program, which is designed to reduce and prevent fugitive EtO emissions.  Finally, a comprehensive testing plan to conduct a month-long perimeter testing program at the facility is currently being developed and will be finalized with input and consultation from the US EPA and IEPA.  Vantage confirmed that the testing will be conducted by an independent third-party firm specializing in air quality as well as ambient and meteorological monitoring. 

Lake County Health Department (County):  On January 6, 2019 the Lake County Health Department provided additional information concerning its efforts to date related to the use of the chemical ethylene oxide.  The County released information obtained from the IEPA that the Vantage facility received a violation notice in 2015 and 2016.  The resolution of these violations indicates there was no concerns regarding emission limits or control requirements of ethylene oxide.  The violations and subsequent resolutions did not include monetary fines.  The Health Department was also a participant on a conference call initiated by the Village of Gurnee with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency on January 17, 2019.

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA):  On January 17, 2019 the Village participated in a conference call with the IEPA to receive an update concerning the Agency’s review of the Vantage facility located in Gurnee and Medline facility located in Waukegan.  The call included representatives from Gurnee, Waukegan, the Lake County Health Department and the IEPA.  Representatives for the IEPA reported that it remains in frequent contact with Vantage and that the company is cooperating with the Agency.  The Agency confirmed that the schedule for the installation of a second (dry) scrubber at the Gurnee facility remains on schedule.  The IEPA verified that the Agency will be reviewing and providing input regarding the testing protocol prior to the company’s implementation of perimeter testing to be conducted by an independent third-party.  The Agency reiterated that Vantage uses ethylene oxide in a completely different manner and process from how sterilization companies use the chemical.  Therefore, comparisons of Vantage’s usage of ethylene oxide and the processes used at sterilization facilitates would be inaccurate.

United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA):  At its meeting with the US EPA on December 3, 2018, the US EPA indicated that it would not be conducting ambient air testing related to the Vantage facility located in Gurnee.  The US EPA confirmed Vantage had advised that it would conduct voluntary perimeter testing at the Gurnee site.  Vantage requested the Agency review the proposed testing protocol and evaluate the selection of an independent third-party testing firm.  The US EPA advised the Village that it would be reviewing and providing input to Vantage concerning the perimeter testing.  The Agency also indicated that a month-long air testing study as proposed by Vantage would provide comprehensive information to assess emission levels.  In early-November 2018 the US EPA as the regulatory authority for air emissions advised the Village that it would be establishing a public website to disseminate information regarding EtO in Lake County.  The Agency further requested the Village refer its residents to the Agency’s website to ensure the most accurate and updated information would be available to Village residents.  In late-November, the US EPA published its “Addressing Ethylene Oxide Emissions in Lake County, Illinois” webpage.   On December 27, 2018 Village staff expressed concern that that webpage had not been updated since it was published and requested the US EPA to update the website on a more frequent basis.  The US EPA apologized for the delay and stated “We hope to update it as soon as possible after the first of the year.”  Currently, the website reports, “Due to a lapse in appropriations, EPA websites will not be regularly updated. In the event of an environmental emergency imminently threatening the safety of human life or where necessary to protect certain property, the EPA website will be updated with appropriate information. Please note that all information on the EPA website may not be up to date, and transactions and inquiries submitted to the EPA website may not be processed or responded to until appropriations are enacted.” The Village will continue to request timely updates from the US EPA once the federal shutdown has ended.