State reaches agreement with BD over toxic emissions

Georgia has reached an agreement with a sterilization plant in Covington requiring the facility to temporarily suspend operations. ??

ATLANTA — A controversial  medical sterilization plant will shut down for one week in an agreement with the State aimed at addressing gas leak protocol and air quality concerns.

The consent order between the head of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and the Becton Dickinson plant was signed off on during a quick court hearing Monday morning in Newton County Superior Court.

The injunction request ties back to a September leak at the plant.

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According to the agreement, the company’s Covington plant will remain closed between Oct. 30 and Nov. 7 to ensure leak protocol is properly addressed.

“By October 31, 2019, BD shall submit documentation that all technicians have trained or retrained on the proper operation of all valves in the BD Covington facility, and that the facility has installed blanks on the outlets to all vacuum exhaust valves at the facility to prevent the flow of untreated ethylene oxide to the atmosphere,” the order reads.

It goes on to say BD will reduce fugitive emissions in Covington when it re-opens on Nov. 7, and have a third-party confirm in writing that it’s implemented the process. That statement is to be submitted to the EPD in writing by Nov. 12.

New emissions calculations will be submitted by Dec. 15 , and EPD-approved facility upgrades will be in place by March 2020.

The consent order also prevents Bard's Madison facility from increasing ethylene oxide use.
In a statement, BD notes that the improvements and much of the consent agreement are in line with an $8 million plan announced in August.

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“The company remains confident in the safety of its operations and the scientific analysis that confirms that its operations do not pose a threat to employees, the community or public health,” part of the BD statement reads.

The company also noted  the week-long closure is not expected to impact product availability at this time.

On Friday the FDA noted medical device supply availability as a concern in a statement from Washington. Bard also submitted an affidavit from a South Georgia surgeon in their court response to the lawsuit, echoing those concerns.

Last week, Bard  disputed the readings of recent air quality testing, submitting the same opposition in their court response.

Following the hearing, residents told Channel 2 Action News they're looking forward to better understanding what's going on with the plant, sans self-reporting methods.

“There have been no checks and balances up until the City of Covington decided to do the air testing,” said Cindy Jordan, a Newton County resident and head of the “Say No to ETO” group.  “It’s a step in the right direction. I applaud them for at least being agreeable to shut down for a week.”

“I just want to reiterate that we no longer want them to self-report,” said Covington resident, Denise Williams. “ We know when they self-report, we don’t have proof that those numbers are accurate.”