Gower District News

UPDATED COMMUNITY NOTICE: Sterigenics Inc. and Ethylene Oxide

December 12, 2018 – – The Village of Willowbrook Task Force Releases Ethylene Oxide Air Monitoring Report and Calls for Action

The Village of Willowbrook posted the Ethylene Oxide Air Monitoring Report on their website today and has also called for the immediate shut down of the Sterigenics facility until further information can be gathered.  Please visit the village website at www.willowbrook.il.org or use this direct link to read the report.  

In summary, Ethylene Oxide was detected in each of the 34 testing locations throughout the community, including the 5 locations at Gower West and the 5 locations at Gower Middle.  The readings in our schools (ranging from <0.07μg/m³ – 0.49μg/m³) are significantly less than the ‘Reasonable Maximum Exposure’ (RME) concentration of 2.1μg/m³ used in the August 21, 2018 Health Consultation Letter issued by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to support the claim of an increased cancer risk compared to the lifetime background risk of an average American and far below the California EPA Reference Exposure Level of 30 μg/m³.  However, it is unclear whether such concentrations require school district officials to take immediate remediation and/or emergency action steps provided that the ATSDR has also shared comparison values for various levels of exposure that range from 0.00021μg/m³ to 160 μg/m³. 

This issue is further complicated by other potential sources of ethylene oxide as detailed in the recent report posted. In addition, there is no guidance currently available from the EPA, ATSDR, or IL Department of Public Health in terms of what steps can or should be taken in a scenario such as ours.  In the absence of such information, it has become clear to Gower 62 District Officials that a ‘do no further harm’ approach is now required until we can gain more clarity as a community.  Whether such an approach requires an immediate stop to further production from Sterigenics is a decision that will take place beyond the schoolhouse, but it is our expectation that local, state, and federal elected officials will take the necessary action to ensure that our most basic resources are kept safe.  

As stated in the August 31, 2018 web-posting, Gower and other area schools are held to high expectations and work hard to exceed them. Schools are expected to operate according to the highest standards of safety, performance, accountability, immediacy, and transparency and we expect nothing less from each of the agencies involved in this issue.  It is time for those agencies to utilize the powers granted to them – in emergency fashion or otherwise – to take swift and decisive action.  Gower School District appreciates the ongoing efforts of Mayor Trilla and the Village of Willowbrook and recognizes that the most recent information provided has been made possible through collaboration and a dedication to the community.

Again, Gower School District will remain engaged until satisfied with the end results.


With respect and continued concern,

Victor Simon,
Superintendent of Schools  

December 7, 2018 – – EPA posts initial 3 days of ambient monitoring around Sterigenics Willowbrook facility

The U.S. EPA has posted results for three days of air quality monitoring around the Sterigenics Willowbrook (November 13, 16 and 19, 2018). Information about the results, including a link to the interactive map and a link to FAQs about the results, is available at this link: https://www.epa.gov/il/sterigenics-willowbrook-facility-latest-update.  It is important to recognize that the EPA is expected to continue to post updates related to the issue at this website directly.  Gower School District Officials will continue to provide updates as they are made available and encourage members of our community to visit the EPA website for the most direct and updated information.  In summary:   

  • EPA Monitors detected ethylene oxide in the air at the two sites closest to the Sterigenics facility. 
  • EPA Monitors did not detect ethylene oxide at the six community-oriented sites — including those at schools and in residential areas.
  • EPA plans to continue monitoring in the Willowbrook area for three months and will continue to post data as it becomes available.
  • EPA will conduct a full assessment of risk from ethylene oxide in Willowbrook, which is expected to be completed by Spring 2019.
  • Although it may be premature to draw conclusions related to the most recent data posted by the EPA, District Officials will re-route buses, using Willowbrook Center Parkway exclusively, to bypass the area at which ethylene oxide has been detected effective immediately. As the current information does not support a claim of an immediate health risk, this decision is being made out of an abundance of caution as the EPA continues its monitoring of the area and can carry out a full risk assessment. 

November 20, 2018 – – For Public Notice and Board Correspondence – – Use this link to view/download correspondence directly

TO: Board of Education, Gower School District 62; All Certified and Non-Certified Staff        

FROM: Dr. Victor Simon, Superintendent of Schools, vsimon@gower62.com

RE: Sterigenics-Ethylene Oxide Issue – For Public Notice and Board Correspondence

DATE: Nov. 20, 2018


Background:  The Gower 62 website can be found at www.gower62.com and is used as a valuable source of information related to our school community.  In addition to this form of communication, Gower utilizes mass-email and robo-call lists for contacts in our student information system.  The annual registration process allows parents and legal guardians to opt in to our direct email outreach and communication efforts. More information regarding our communication strategy, can be found in the Parent/Student Handbook (pp. 9-10).

As reported during the Sept. 25, 2018 Board meeting, Gower School District administrators have been directly engaged in the Sterigenics/ethylene oxide issue since it was made public. Beginning with the Community Notice posted on our website on Sunday, August 26, 2018, Gower officials have provided updates to increase awareness and have served as a source of information and guidance to our colleagues in Burr Ridge, Cass, Darien, Hinsdale, LaGrange, Oak Brook, Pleasantdale, Westmont, Western Springs, and a number of other area school districts. Our level of engagement has not been limited to providing updates. Gower officials have strongly advocated for testing and monitoring that meet the same standards of safety, transparency, accountability, and urgency that public schools are held to. Gower officials have also participated in weekly conference calls since they were put into place by the E.P.A. on Oct. 18, 2018 to connect E.P.A., state and local officials across the area as well as representatives of the social media and community-based Stop Sterigenics group to determine a course of action for moving forward.  

Our voice on these calls has not been idle, nor has it grown quiet as this issue has lingered. From providing direct input to plans for an upcoming E.P.A./Community Meeting to ensuring that both of our school campuses were included in Willowbrook Task Force testing and E.P.A. monitoring, we have pushed hard for the interests of our community. In my role as Superintendent of Schools, I have a strong preference for ‘well done’ over ‘well said’. And to that point, I am pleased to report that due to our efforts, both of our school campuses were included in the Willowbrook Task Force testing conducted on Nov. 16-17 which is expected to provide some clarity in the coming weeks. More information regarding this testing can be found on the Willowbrook website at www.willowbrookil.org or by using this direct link. In addition, both of our school campuses are included in the E.P.A. outdoor air monitoring which is underway.  More information regarding this monitoring will be shared on the Sterigenics Willowbrook Facility page on the E.P.A. website (www.epa.gov/il) as it is made available. The E.P.A. has also established a direct email (EtO@epa.gov) for anyone interested in submitting questions or concerns and plans to host a Community Open House (3-6 pm) and Forum (7-9 pm) on Nov. 29th at Ashton Place in Willowbrook. More information regarding this Open House/Forum can also be found at the E.P.A. website or by using this direct link.  

As stated in the September 25th update, as educators, we are charged with the world’s most precious and valuable resources – our children.  We do not take that responsibility lightly and will remain engaged in this situation until satisfied with a resolution that ensures a safe learning environment in our schools. Updates will continue to be provided as information becomes available and I encourage you to contact me with any questions or concerns.


With continued attention and concern,

Victor Simon III 

Superintendent of Schools


Enc: Weblink to Sept. 25, 2018 Correspondence and Update (http://gower62.com/district/)

Direct Links to Village Websites w/ Related Information Include: Burr Ridge, Darien, Hinsdale, Indian Head Park, Willowbrook  

September 25, 2018 – – – For Public Notice and Board Correspondence – – –  Use this link to view/download correspondence directly

I have had the pleasure to serve as the Superintendent of Schools for Gower School District 62 since 2013. Throughout my tenure, I have included the strength of our parent and community engagement among the reasons for our continued success. Today is no different. As educators, we are charged with the world’s most precious and valuable resource – our children. Given that massive responsibility, it is comforting to know that when we post or send a message to parents, it is not only read but is typically acted on. I can tell you that we do not take this level of parent engagement for granted. In fact, it is precisely the reason why we took immediate action, beginning at 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, August 26th,  to post a Community Notice on our district website related to the Sterigenics issue. It is clear that our series of updates helped, even if in some small part, to bring more attention to this issue. But our action did not stop there. By attending the August 27th Village of Willowbrook meeting and offering public comment for their official record, I believe the following was accomplished on behalf of the school district:

1) We demonstrated an active level of concern and a commitment to be directly involved in this issue.

2) We delivered a clear message to Village officials that their commitment to providing clear and ongoing communication was appreciated and was the expectation moving forward to keep our community informed.

3) We formally requested that area school campuses be included in any future/ongoing testing related to this issue as recommended in the ATSDR report.

a) This request was reiterated in the Sept. 10th letter sent by High School District 86 to the ATSDR and IL-EPA calling for expedited testing.

b) This request was approved for action during the Sept 24th Village Board meeting for our schools to be included in the local Task Force response/testing in addition to the recommended EPA testing.

We have maintained regular attendance at Village meetings to ensure direct participation and direct access to information being shared in an effort to keep our school community informed. We have also served as a resource to a number of our neighboring districts and helped make them more aware of this issue. Gower may be a relatively small school district, but I can assure you that our voice has been represented and acknowledged since this issue emerged – much like that of the rest of our school community. We have taken action and thousands of others in and around our community have as well. As stated in the updated Community Notice posted on Aug. 31st , Gower School District officials will remain engaged in this situation until satisfied with the efforts made and the actions taken to bring about a resolution that ensures a safe learning environment in our community.

With respect and appreciation,

Victor Simon III


August 31, 2018 – E-Newsletter Sent 3:15 p.m. Statement Regarding Sterigenics in Willowbrook, IL 

As stated in the Community Update on August 28, 2018, Gower School District officials have been actively engaged in the situation related to Sterigenics, Inc., located 7775 S. Quincy St., Willowbrook, IL 60527.  We were present at the regularly scheduled Willowbrook Village Board Meeting held on Aug. 27th to represent the interests of the Gower Community.  We made it clear at this Board Meeting, through public record, that Gower School District expects each of our school campuses to be included in any future ambient air testing and for the results to be made public.

We were also present at the Public Forum held on Aug. 29th to listen to every comment, every question, and every answer delivered as a direct effort to better understand the situation and position ourselves to make informed decisions. We have maintained contact with Willowbrook village officials throughout this situation and are pleased with their commitment to providing direct and ongoing communication through their website.

It has been made clear to the Mayor and other locally elected officials that Gower and other area schools are held to high expectations and work hard to exceed them. Schools are expected to operate according to the highest standards of safety, performance, accountability, immediacy, and transparency and we expect nothing less from each of the agencies involved in this issue.  Gower School District officials will remain engaged in this situation until satisfied with the efforts made and actions taken to bring about a resolution that ensures a safe learning learning environment in our community.

In addition, Gower School District officials have maintained regular and ongoing communication with other area school district officials to ensure that we are taking the necessary steps to protect and advocate for our children in the most productive way and will continue to do so.  We all understand that safety for our students is the top priority and the area school district partnership demonstrates a clear commitment to ensure a safe learning environment across all of our schools.

Mayor Trilla and other elected officials have heard our concerns and have shown a willingness to take action. The most recent letter requesting that Sterigenics ‘cease operations until further testing can be conducted regarding Ethylene Oxide’ – posted on the Willowbrook website today – represents a collaborative effort and a response that only comes from the type of community that places public interest above all others.

This situation is a multi-faceted, community-wide issue and will likely require a multi-faceted, community-wide response before it is fully resolved. It is also a stark reminder of how much we depend on local, state, and federal agencies to provide basic services, to keep the public interest at the core of their actions, and if nothing else, to simply do no harm. Again, Gower School District will remain engaged until satisfied with the end results.

It is important to note that the Village of Willowbrook is currently positioned as the best source of information as all relevant federal and state agencies are in direct contact with the Mayor and his team.  If you haven’t visited the village website at www.willowbrook.il.org, you are encouraged to do so in order to learn more about this situation and to sign up for updates directly from the Village.

With respect and continued concern,

Victor Simon,
Superintendent of Schools  

August 28, 2018 – E-Newsletter Sent 1:20 p.m. –  Public Forum – Village of Willowbrook

School district officials have been closely monitoring a situation related to the Sterigenics, Inc., located 7775 S. Quincy St., Willowbrook, IL 60527.  The school district began updating the www.gower62.com website early Sunday evening in an effort to share information from the Village of Willowbrook with the Gower Community.  The Willowbrook website can be found at www.willowbrook.il.org and includes a detailed report related to the emissions from the Sterigenics facility. It was reported at the regularly scheduled Willowbrook Village Board Meeting held last night (8/27) that the situation “is not an immediate threat to public health and is not considered to be an emergency”.  The full statement read at the meeting can be found here.

Gower School District Superintendent, Victor Simon, was in attendance at the village hall meeting to request that any future ambient air testing and/or monitoring conducted by or for the Sterigenics facility in Willowbrook include both Gower school district campuses and shared accordingly.  Dr. Simon also thanked Mayor Trilla and his team for providing regular and updated communication related to this issue.

The Village of Willowbrook is hosting a Public Forum related to this topic on Wednesday, August 29th at 7:00 p.m. at Ashton Place located at 341 75th St., Willowbrook, IL 60527. 

Updated Community Notice: August 27, 2018 5:50 pm The Village of Willowbrook, along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has planned a public forum for residents, those who work in the village, and anyone interested to ask questions regarding the report from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). The ATSDR is a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Present at the forum will be representatives from Sterigenics, ATSDR, U.S. EPA, Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards (a division of the U.S. EPA), Illinois EPA and DuPage County Health Department.

In addition, U.S. Congressman Bill Foster, Illinois Representative Jim Durkin and Illinois State Senator John Curran, along with Willowbrook Mayor Frank Trilla and the Village Trustees will be present.

            WHEN:          Wednesday, August 29, 2018, 7 P.M.

            WHERE:        Ashton Place, 341 75th St. Willowbrook, IL 60527

 Please check the village website for updates www.willowbrookil.org.

Updated Community Notice: August 27, 2018 5:15 pm The Village of Willowbrook has posted an updated statement on their website at www.willowbrookil.org which can be accessed by using this link.  According to this statement, it has been determined that the emissions of ethylene oxide from the Sterigenics International, Inc. facility in Willowbrook, IL are not an immediate threat to public health and are not considered to be an emergency situation. The U.S. EPA has been working with Illinois EPA and Sterigenics to reduce emissions of ethylene oxide from the company’s facility. In July 2018, the company installed additional pollution controls to capture ethylene oxide emissions. The U.S. EPA and Illinois EPA will monitor the effectiveness of the new equipment to determine whether any other actions are needed to protect public health. School district administrators appreciate the direct and ongoing communication and leadership of Mayor Frank Trilla and his team related to this incident and are in regular contact with village officials to monitor the situation and provide community updates accordingly.

Community Notice August 26, 2018 5:00 pm: A federal agency report recently posted on the Village of Willowbrook website provides notification and detail of specific hazardous emissions from Sterigenics International, Inc., located in the Willowbrook Municipal Complex.  Additional information and updates can be found at www.willowbrookil.org. School district administrators will continue to monitor this situation and share information with the Gower Community accordingly.