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Judge Delays Ruling On Deal That May Allow Sterigenics To Reopen; Court To Allow More Public Input

WHEATON, Ill. (CBS) -- A DuPage County judge on Wednesday delayed ruling on an agreement that might allow Sterigenics to reopen its medical sterilization plant in Willowbrook in order to allow more time for public comment on the deal.

"Today we see this as a win," said Willowbrook Mayor Frank Trilla. "It buys us some time, and most importantly it gives us a voice at the table."

"I'm very pleased that Judge Fullerton is going to give our local communities voice in this process as there needs to be accountability for this pollution in any agreement or any consent order by this court," said Sen. John Curran.

The company had been partially shut down after the Environmental Protection Agency found it had released high levels of ethylene oxide, a cancer-causing chemical.

A consent order filed by the Illinois Attorney General's Office and the DuPage County State's Attorney's Office would allow the plant to reopen if it meets strict new requirements regarding ethylene oxide emissions.

An order keeping the ethylene oxide operation shut down will remain in place for at least 30 days to allow the courts to review public comments on the deal.

The proposed agreement would allow Sterigenics to again use the chemical at its plant, but the company would first have to create new systems to capture the ethylene oxide gas. The EPA would have to approve that system.

Also, Sterigenics would have to eliminate all emissions - no level of gas would be tolerated.

The CBS 2 Investigators since January have exposed calls by federal lawmakers for criminal and civil investigations.

Sterigenics also has to put up $300,000 to fund environmental improvement projects. There are no other fines or penalties.

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A judge still has to sign off on the consent order.

The Illinois Attorney General's Office says the agreement builds off a new law requiring the strictest ethylene oxide limits in the nation.

Sterigenics released the following statement in response to the ruling:

"Sterigenics, a leading provider of mission-critical sterilization services, today commented on the DuPage County Court decision to reschedule the hearing on the Consent Order, which had previously been agreed to by the State of Illinois, DuPage County State's Attorney and the company.

"We are confident that the Consent Order will be approved in due course. 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."

CBS 2 reached out to the company for comment but has not heard back. However, Sterigenics officials have always said it was fully compliant with all laws and regulations.

The next decision on the company's future could take place Sept. 6.

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