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Sterigenics Loses Round One At Federal Hearing Against Illinois EPA

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Sterigenics has lost the first round of its fight to reopen its sterilizing operation using ethylene oxide.

This comes on the heels of the CBS 2 Investigators reports on the company's use of the chemical.

CBS 2's Suzanne Le Mignot was in court Wednesday as the decision was made.

The hearing centered on due process and whether the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency had the right to shut down the plant. Members of "Stop Sterigenics" cheered after a judge ruled the medical supply sterilization company will not be able to use ethylene oxide any time soon.

"Today was a huge battle. We won that battle today. We intend to win the entire war. We know it's not over. But on behalf of our community, we are elated. Tonight Sterigenics will remain closed. We couldn't be happier," said Sterigenics opponent Lauren Kaesberg.

On February 15, the Illinois EPA issued a seal order for all storage containers of ethylene oxide, a known carcinogen, to be sealed at the facility. The order was done using a statute which said an emergency condition exists or there's an imminent and substantial endangerment to the public's health, welfare or the environment.

Recent testing by the U.S. EPA and Willowbrook showed high levels of the chemical in the air. The lawyer for Sterigenics said it's impossible the high readings are from their operations.

"To have the attorney general's office up in court representing us felt so good," added Kaesberg.

The lawyer for Sterigenics argued that they are operating in full compliance with permits issued by the Illinois EPA, the same agency that has allowed them to operate.    Legal experts said it's not over yet. There are several avenues Sterigenics can take to get the ethylene oxide operation running again.

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