A consent order that Sterigenics entered into with the state of Georgia to reduce ethylene oxide (EtO) emissions at its Atlanta medtech sterilization plant may be in jeopardy.
A hearing is scheduled today on a lawsuit that accuses the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) of failing to take public comment before entering the Aug. 7 consent order, which allows Sterigenics to upgrade its emissions controls for the sterilant gas. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers EtO a carcinogen, and the FDA is seeking alternatives to EtO and has asked for public input on emissions reduction technology.
In the lawsuit, Georgia State Rep. Jen Jordan and two residents of a neighborhood near the plant ask the court to invalidate the consent order until the public can comment on it. One resident is a man in his 40s who lives near the plant and was diagnosed with lymphoma earlier this year. The other resident is the widow of a man who died of leukemia in 2018. The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared the sterilant gas EtO a carcinogen in 2016. The plaintiffs contend that residents of 20 or more homes in their Olde Vinings Mill neighborhood have been diagnosed with cancer in recent years.
The lawsuit contends that the EPA notified Georgia environmental officials in August or September of 2018 of elevated levels of EtO in six areas near the Sterigenics plant, and that neither agency notified the public. Had the public been notified, they would have contested parts of the consent order, the lawsuit says.
Oak Park, Ill.-based Sterigenics temporarily shut the Atlanta plant 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 plant remains closed as the upgrades proceed, a Sterigenics spokesman told Medical Design & Outsourcing.
Jordan and the other plaintiffs ask that the EPD follow state procedure allowing public comment before entering another consent order with Sterigenics. The hearing will be held in Superior Court in Fulton County, Ga., but no decision may be revealed today, according to an attorney for the plaintiffs.