Ott asks residents to “not make any rash decisions about moving or closing your business”

Sterigenics sign in article about Sterigenics temporary shutdownSterigenics (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

In his weekly newsletter Cobb County District 2 Commissioner Bob Ott asked that residents not decide to move or close businesses because of the Sterigenics facility and its ethylene oxide emissions.

He wrote that until testing is done, the levels of ethylene oxide in the air is unknown.

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“The commissioners will have in short order factual data about the amount of ethylene oxide in our air and the health ramifications,” he wrote in the newsletter.

The Sterigenics plant became a focus of community concern after an article jointly published by Georgia Health News and WebMD reported that three census tracts, two in the Smyrna area and one in Covington, had unacceptable levels of cancer risk by EPA standards, due to elevated amounts of ethylene oxide in the air.

Here is the complete text of Ott’s statement:

It has been a tumultuous three weeks since the WebMD article about the Sterigenics plant located in the southern part of the district. For those that haven’t heard, as amazing as that may seem, Sterigenics is a medical equipment sterilization facility located just south of Smyrna. In a July 24th article in WebMD and Georgia Medical News, the county and the residents in the area found out about the Ethylene Oxide released from the plant during its operations.

In 2016 the EPA changed the designation of Ethylene Oxide to a carcinogen. This information has caused considerable concern among the residents, city, county and state officials. During the last three weeks I have personally toured the plant and met with the CEO to get a better understanding of this issue. Additionally, there have been two public meetings, the first at Campbell Middle School with Sterigenics, and most recently at the Cobb County Civic Center with representatives from the EPA, GA EPD, GA Public Health and ATSDR (a division of the CDC), along with numerous elected officials. Prior to the meeting there was an open house with the same groups and the Stop Sterigenics group in the lobby of the Civic Center. There was a lot of valuable information presented at the meeting along with some questions answered. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, not all questions were answered. I’ve included below links to the presentation and the question/answer site at the EPA.

I’ve also had numerous conversations with Governor Kemp, and he has pledged his support in helping the county move forward in addressing this issue. 

I want to emphasize here that there is much that we all now know, but there is also much that we don’t know yet. For example, until the air quality testing being done by Cobb, Smyrna and the City of Atlanta is complete, we do not know what levels of ethylene oxide from the plant are in our air. The testing is also going to give us the ambient amount of ethylene oxide in our air. Studies have shown that in most areas of the country there is some amount of ethylene oxide in the air. The testing sanctioned by the county and the cities will give us that information. The results should be known in about a month.

In talking with many of you I know that you are concerned about the health and safety of you and your families. I share your concerns and want you to know that the county is doing all it can to get factual data to determine the path forward. Sterigenics and the GA EPD will be presenting their paths forward to the commissioners at the Monday, August 26 Work Session at 1:30 p.m.

Until we gather more information, I ask you to not make any rash decisions about moving or closing your business. The commissioners will have in short order factual data about the amount of ethylene oxide in our air and the health ramifications.

As always, I will strive to keep you informed with all of the information I have. Please use the links below to learn more about ethylene oxide and how the EPA and EPD deal with it.

Finally, I want to give a public thanks to my assistant Kim. Due to my flying schedule she has taken many of your calls and worked closely with the EPA and EPD folks in planning Monday’s community meeting. All of us in District 2 are lucky to have such a thoughtful and dedicated person working with me. So, the next time you call or write please thank Kim for her hard work.

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