villa 030724SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Karina Villa advanced a measure that would finalize the closure of the Kerr-McGee Rare Earths Facility in West Chicago that ceased operations in 1973 and has been in the process of decommissioning since 1994.

“The community of West Chicago has experienced significant turmoil as a result of operations of the facility, affecting our community for decades,” said Villa (D-West Chicago). “The entire process has been very frightening for residents who were never fully informed about the harmful effects of exposure, especially Latino residents with a language barrier.”

From 1932 to 1973, operating under different owners, the Rare Earths Facility produced large amounts of radioactive waste, including thorium tailings, which were distributed across town for landscaping purposes. This resulted in the contamination of at least 676 properties in West Chicago, most of which were family residences. At the time, health risks associated with exposure to radioactive waste were largely unknown, but residents frequently brought up concerns.

Senate Bill 3279 would allow the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and the Office of Homeland Security to approve the request of terminating Kerr-McGee’s radioactive materials license via municipal and county ordinances restricting ground water use, which protect public safety and the property.

“I am honored to champion this initiative to bring peace to my community and provide a safe environment for all West Chicagoans,” said Villa. “I grew up hearing about Kerr-McGee and the great disdain the community had for the facility. It is time that we move forward from this environmental tragedy.”

Senate Bill 3279 passed the Senate Environment and Conservation Committee on Thursday.