Proposal by Sterigenics a medical device sterilizing firm to cut down pollution at its facility located in Smyrna received swift approval by state regulators. The firm has been at the forefront of local protests after residents learnt that it uses cancer causing gas ethylene oxide (EO) during sterilization process. The firm has since submitted an application seeking a permit to make changes in its facilities to meet the demands. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last year has identified few tracts in the Smyrna area as having higher cancer risk due to ethylene oxide.
The Environmental Protection Division (EPD) stated that two firms in Georgia and near Covington use ethylene oxide for medical device sterilization. Apparently another facility located near Athens called Stepan also uses ethylene oxide for manufacturing laundry detergent. It announced that it will use various modeling methods to determine existing ethylene oxide emission levels from these facilities and will also monitor air quality close to the factories and nearby areas. The agency stated that monitoring air quality can be a challenge as ethylene oxide is generated from various sources. The facility of Sterigenics will be corrected within 12-24 weeks said the EPD.
The firm’s president Phil Macnabb stated that upgrades have been proposed to EPD Georgia after months of discussion to implement technology for reduction of the gas. However Smyrna city announced last week that it will carry out independent testing around Sterigenics plant after the cleanup is done. The state EPD announced that it is working with BD to look for solutions for reduction of emissions in Madison and Covington regions. In 2013 the EPD started offering expedited permitting program as per law the agency has 5 months to review and approve all permits after application materials are given. As per analysis of data by Georgia Health News the average time taken by EPD to review permit is 5 weeks.