County allows Sterigenics to resume operations

Sterigenics sign in article Sterigenics temporary restraining orderSterigenics (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

Cobb County Chairman Mike Boyce, at the urging of the FDA, signed an emergency order allowing the controversial Sterigenics facility to resume operations, using ethylene oxide to sterilize medical equipment. The facility is located near Smyrna off Atlanta Road.

County Communications Director Ross Cavitt distributed the following news release describing the decision:

March 25, 2020 | At the urging of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and communicated through state officials, Chairman Mike Boyce signed an emergency authorization Wednesday to allow the Sterigenics facility to operate on a limited contingency basis.

A letter from the FDA cited the current situation involving the COVID-19 virus and the lack of critical personal protective equipment (PPE) as a reason for the action. Sterigenics completed a negative air pressure test of its facility Monday.

The Chief of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division Air Protection Branch told the county the test showed the system “appeared to be working as designed.”

EPD officials are awaiting a final test report to review before the facility can be cleared to resume operations.

The Limited Emergency Authorization expires at the end of the county’s Declaration of Emergency, restricts the amount of ethylene oxide permitted on site, and provides for immediate reporting of any incident at the facility

Background

The Sterigenics plant became a focus of community concern in Smyrna and surrounding areas 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.

The site has been the subject of community organizing and protests.

In February scheduled testing at the plant was canceled, and last Monday the previously canceled testing was resumed.

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