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State officials approve plan to reduce cancer-causing chemical coming from plant near Smyrna

The plan, which is by Sterigenics, is to install new anti-pollution controls. Construction should be completed in 12 to 24 weeks.

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — The Georgia Environmental Protection Division has approved a plan to reduce a cancer-causing toxin coming from a plant located near Smyrna.

The plan, which is by Sterigenics, is to install new anti-pollution controls. Construction should be completed in 12 to 24 weeks.

In a meeting earlier in the week, the president of Sterigenics, Phil MacNabb, said the company had submitted a permit application to the EPD to install the emissions control enhancements.

A WebMD article published recently warned about the level of ethylene oxide released by Sterigenics in Cobb County and a separate company in Covington called BD. The plants use ethylene oxide gas to sterilize medical equipment. When neighbors learned about the emissions, it stirred up controversy. 

The news even grabbed the attention of Gov. Brian Kemp's office. They confirmed that the EPD is overseeing an investigation into the matter.

RELATED: Kemp's office: EPD investigating cancer-causing chemical coming from 2 plants

"We've been talking to the companies about stepping up the monitoring and the testing and how that's done," he said.

In recent years, the United States Environmental Protection Agency updated its classification for ethylene oxide from "Likely to cause cancer" to "Definitely causes cancer." 

EPD said the new anti-pollution controls stand to reduce modeled emissions from about .02 micrograms per cubic meter to around .0005 micrograms per cubic meter. Officials said that translates to a reduction in possible lifetime exposure cancer risk of roughly 100 in 1 million people to two in 1 million people.

This plan would reduce emissions near the Sterigenics facility, but the EPD said they are working with BD to find solutions for the communities that are near that plant.

RELATED: Company accused of releasing cancer-causing chemical in Smyrna meets with residents

EPD is finalizing the details for two public meetings in Cobb and Newton Counties for Aug. 19 and 20, respectively. They said they plan to attend the meeting along with representatives from the EPA, the Centers for Disease Control and the state's department of public health.

EPD officials also plan on attending the Covington City Council meeting this Monday evening, August 5.


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