COBB COUNTY, Ga. — A lawsuit aimed at the state’s handling of a controversial medical sterilization plant has been filed, as independent air quality testing comes to a temporary halt.
The suit against the Georgia Environmental Protection Division was filed Friday by state Sen. Jen Jordan and two Cobb County residents who believe they or a family member have been sickened by the Sterigenics plant emissions.
Sterigenics uses the federally recognized carcinogen, ethylene oxide, to sterilize medical products. It’s been under fire for months, since a WebMD/Georgia Health News investigation revealed it’d been working with the EPD to lower and maintain emission levels, unbeknownst to the public.
The filing slams the EPD’s August consent order, essentially allowing the plant to move forward with a closure and what they deem as a fix to public outcry, without actual public input. It argues a true understanding of the gas levels may not be attainable, given what’s been described as a rushed order.
Jordan said she is hopeful Gov. Brian Kemp will step in with a solution before the suit moves forward. Sterigenics has 30 days to respond to the filing.
“We see the lawsuit as an opportunity to undo that -- to get the court to invalidate the consent order so now we have more information and we can do better,” Jordan said.
“I would hope that the governor’s office, the EPD -- they would welcome this,” she continued.
Neither a spokesperson for the company nor the Attorney General’s Office had any comment on the pending litigation. The AG will represent the state EPD in the matter. Channel 2 did not immediately hear back from the Governor’s Office.
Meanwhile, newly installed air quality monitoring devices were removed from impacted locations.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr saw one of the devices, placed in front of Smyrna City Hall, being taken away Monday afternoon.
The devices were installed last week as a part of a testing solution coordinated between a local task force of city and county leaders, and Gwinnett County-based contractor GHD.
A spokeswoman for the City of Smyrna confirmed the task force’s decision to temporarily remove the devices Monday morning. Five days worth of data collection has been completed. The remaining nine will take place once the Sterigenics plant is up and running 24/7, she said.
In an earlier statement, a spokesperson for Sterigenics expected their construction period to be complete the first week in October. That falls around the same time the Georgia EPD had planned its own, independent air quality testing.
Jordan and other opponents have argued the company’s integrity is in question, given the circumstances surrounding the order, a recent employee burn injury and an unreported July leak that’s led to a state investigation.
“I just think we’re kinda at a point where they’ve really lost the trust of the community and I hope that they’ve lost the trust of the governor’s office,” Jordan said.
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