ATLANTA — Two residents living near the Sterigenics plant in Cobb County have filed legal paperwork challenging a deal made between the company and the state Environmental Protection Division. A state senator, Jen Jordan (D-Atlanta) is also a plaintiff in the case representing constituents in nearby neighborhoods.
The challenge says the state failed to follow "procedural rules" that allow consent orders. The plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment from a Fulton County judge.
The plaintiffs say they "have all more likely than not breathed and continue to breathe" ethylene oxide, a cancer-causing gas that's been emitted from the plant. The petition says the plaintiffs "suffered injury or endangerment of injury from ingesting a known carcinogen, and/or they or family members have already suffered grievous injury as the result of cancer which they believe to have been caused by EtO released by Sterigenics."
Attorneys argue the state should have allowed a 30-day public comment period prior to entering into a consent order with Sterigenics. Plaintiff Todd Smith "would like (and would have liked) the opportunity to present his story to the EPD for consideration prior to it entering into any Consent Order with Sterigenics, but he has been deprived of that right to be heard," according to the court document.
The petition says Smith was diagnosed with lymphoma earlier this year.
The petition says a nearby resident, Jim Baynes, died from leukemia last year. His widow, Kim Baynes, is a plaintiff. The challenge claims that at least 20 or more households in the Olde Vinings Mill neighborhood have had cancer diagnoses.
In the consent order, Sterigenics and EPD agreed to monitor air quality near the plant. Monitoring devices have been mounted nearby in recent days. The EPD declined to shut down the plant, saying the state had no legal authority to do so.
In an update released Friday, Sterigenics said it expects to complete installation of enhancements at its plant meant to reduce ethylene oxide emissions ahead of schedule, by the first week of October.
The company released a statement saying:
“At the request of Governor Kemp and the EPD, Sterigenics has been working to expedite the installation of technology enhancements to our Atlanta facility and, as previously announced, has been operating under a reduced production schedule. The construction is proceeding ahead of schedule. We have determined that suspending sterilization operations, and the use of EO in those operations, throughout the duration of the work will enable us to further accelerate the installation of these enhancements and that doing so is the most efficient path to meeting the requests of all stakeholders."
“As we implement these enhancements to ensure that our facility operates in line with the highest control standards in the country, our team is also working with customers to minimize the impact on the supply of vital sterile medical products to hospitals and the patients who depend on them every day.”
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