Lawmaker calls for temporary shutdown of plant accused of leaking toxic gas

The state is looking into toxic air concerns from the plant

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — A Georgia congressman wants a medical sterilization company to shut down until tests can determine if its emissions are a health risk.

There are two plants in question: One in Smyrna and one in Covington.

Gov. Brian Kemp met with officials from Sterigenics on Monday and then with Bard Medical officials on Tuesday.

Content Continues Below

A Web MD study said the plants were releasing a toxic, cancer-causing gas called ethylene oxide into the air.

Channel 2 political reporter Richard Elliot spoke with Rep. David Scott on Tuesday. Smyrna is in his congressional district.

Scott didn't pull any punches.

He wants the federal EPA and the Georgia EPD to test ethylene oxide emissions from the Sterigenics plant in Smyrna, and then he wants it to shut down until they can determine if there are health risks.

"I think the first thing we need to do is a temporary close-down," Scott said. "The way you solve this problem is, until we know the area is safe, don't have that plant operating, continue to spew it out."


Elliot went to Bard Medical on Tuesday. The study said the company emitted the gas, as well. As Elliot's photographer was shooting video of the building, the company's spokesman, Troy Kirkpatrick, walked outside to talk to him.

"We simply wouldn't operate a facility that we think puts the community at risk," he said.

Kirkpatrick insisted their emissions are well below federal regulations. Bard Medical uses the chemical to sterilize medical devices to prevent infections.

"What we're talking about here is trace emissions, and so we are well below what is required from us, so we don't just meet the requirements, we're way below the requirements," Kirkpatrick said.

Kirkpatrick was set to attend a town hall meeting Tuesday night about the emissions concerns, similar to the one held in Smyrna on Monday night.

Concerned residents wanted answers about the gas released by Sterigenics.

They worry the gas causes cancer and that its presence lowers property values.

The EPA and EPD promised more testing. But state Sen. Jen Jordan wasn't satisfied.

"I think everybody is on notice that we're not just going to sit back and be spoon fed information and be expected just to take it," Jordan said.

Kirkpatrick insists Bard's releases are minimal and don't create health risks.

"We care about our employees. We care about the community and we monitor the technologies that we have in the facilities to monitor to make sure we keep people safe," Kirkpatrick said.

Jordan joined Scott's call to close the Sterigenics plant down.

Georgia Republican Rep. Barry Loudermilk sent a letter to the EPA asking for a full investigation.

"It is imperative for citizens in my district and the surrounding area, to get answers to our concerns," Loudermilk said in a statement.