Georgia state officials want more test results from Sterigenics before they will allow the company to reopen its medtech sterilization plant in Atlanta.
In a letter dated Wednesday, the state Environmental Protection Division (EPD) told Sterigenics to test new emissions-control equipment that the company installed after voluntarily closing the plant Aug. 26, and to report its findings to the EPD. The division will also require the company to perform certain engineering analyses and provide documentation of the results.
Oak Park, Ill.-based Sterigenics temporarily shut the Atlanta on August 26 to voluntarily upgrade emission controls. In September, Cobb County, Ga. officials declared the Atlanta plant a “high-hazard” industrial facility that must meet stiffer fire safety regulations than it needed to under its previous designation as a storage facility. The county ordered Sterigenics to stop construction until it obtained a new certificate of occupancy. The Atlanta plant’s emissions upgrades must also meet with county officials’ approval before it can reopen.
Ethylene oxide is a colorless, odorless gas widely used to sterilize medical devices because, unlike other methods, EO sterilization can take place at low temperatures, it does not harm or discolor the devices, and it can penetrate device packaging better than other sterilants. The federal Environmental Protection Agency declared the gas a carcinogen in 2016, and Sterigenics recently decided not to reopen an EO plant in Willowbrook, Ill. that state officials had shut down in February over concerns about emissions. The Willowbrook plant had sterilized millions of devices per year.
Separately, the mayor of Covington, Ga. said he wants Becton Dickinson (NYSE:BDX) to reimburse the city for emissions tests that an outside firm recently conducted of a BD-owned EO plant, according to a report by the Covington News. Mayor Ronnie Johnston expressed concern that the results of those tests may have been tainted because the tests were conducted during a week in September when an EO leak was occurring, unbeknownst to BD or city officials. BD reported the leak to city officials and corrected it.