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Tests To Check For Drinking Water Pollution Near Sterigenics Site

CHICAGO (CBS) -- New tests will be conducted near the embattled Sterigenics facility in Willowbrook on Thursday, amid an investigation of emissions of harmful cancer-causing ethylene oxide.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been monitoring air pollution in neighborhoods around the Sterigenics plant, and on Thursday the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and DuPage County Health Department began taking water samples at homes in the area.

Crews have started taking water samples from spigots on the outside of homes.

Samples will be sent to an independent certified lab for testing, to determine if there is groundwater contamination in wells used for drinking water. If there is, the sampling could be expanded.

"When test results do come back from analysis, they will go to the department of public health, and they will start calling residents to let them know the results," DuPage County Health Department spokesman Don Bolger said.

Ethylene oxide is used at the Sterigenics plant to sterilize medical equipment.

Some residents have said no amount of the gas is safe for their families to breathe. They will undoubtedly feel the same about any water contamination.

"The concerns are, is it safe to drink, to be consumed either by me or any of the animals I live with?" Willowbrook homeowner Don Bertolucci said.

The U.S. EPA has said previous air quality tests might have overstated the amount of ethylene oxide being emitted into the air, so the agency has been conducting new tests that will take at least three months to complete.

Sterigenics has claimed recent air quality tests by the U.S. EPA did not detect ethylene oxide in the air near homes, schools, and parks.

In October, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit against the company, calling for a judge to impose strict new limits on ethylene oxide emissions, or to shut down the facility, where Sterigenics uses ethylene oxide to sterilize medical equipment.

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