December 8, 2021
Mr. Michael S. Regan
Office of the Administrator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20460
Dear Administrator Regan:
As concerned parents and residents in South Texas, we write to you regarding emissions of ethylene oxide from a commercial sterilizer plant—Midwest Sterilization Corp.— in Laredo, TX, that threatens the public health of our medically-underserved border community, which is 95% Hispanic.
In 2014, EPA’s National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA) found that there are multiple census tracts in the U.S. where ethylene-oxide emissions contribute to an elevated cancer risk above 100 in one million—a level that the EPA deems unacceptable. As a result of emissions from Midwest Sterilization Corp., our community was included on this list.
We are especially concerned about Midwest Sterilization Corp.’s proximity to multiple schools in Laredo where elementary, middle, and high school children attend daily.
Earlier this year, our city’s largest independent school district, United ISD, sent a letter to the staff and parents of only one campus that downplayed the severity of the situation, and to calm their fears about sending their children to school near a facility that emits a cancer producing chemical.
Just this week, at a December 6 Laredo City Council meeting, officials from Midwest Sterilization Corp. and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (Michael Honeycutt, Director, TCEQ Toxicology Division) questioned EPA’s scientific assessment of the dangers of ethylene oxide in an effort to keep residents from rightfully raising their concerns.
But without EPA action, and without fenceline air monitoring, residents will remain vulnerable and fearful of the unacceptable health risks associated with living and breathing the air near this commercial sterilizer facility.
We submit this letter to you with four urgent asks:
- Hold a community meeting in Laredo together with the Clean Air Laredo Coalition as soon as possible;
- Order the delivery and installation of multiple air quality monitors to commence fenceline monitoring around the facility and some of the 31 Laredo schools listed in the top 2% of the nation’s most air toxic schools, as per the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (PERI Air Toxics at School List) which used EPA data from the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) and modeled by the Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators (RSEI);
- Work with the EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice to potentially intervene with Midwest Sterilization Co due to the misinformation that they are providing to our community that refutes EPA’s science and findings on ethylene oxide; and
- Issue stronger regulations governing commercial sterilizers, as soon as possible, that removes the currently unacceptable cancer risk and other health threats that this facility poses to Laredo.
We respectfully request that we move forward on these items as soon as possible. Thank you.
CLEAN AIR LAREDO COALITION
cc: Joe Goffman, Assistant Administrator of Office of Air and Radiation
Matt Tejada, EPA Director of Office of Environmental Justice
David W. Gray, Acting Regional Administrator of EPA Region
David Garcia, Director of Air and Radiation Division of EPA Region 6