Fulton County residents can be assured county officials are keeping a close eye on air quality following the discovery of toxic gas being emitted from a Sterigenics medical sterilization plant in Smyrna.
“We have got to take all measures possible to protect our communities,” District 1 Fulton Commissioner Liz Hausmann said.
Hausmann spoke following statements to the county board of commissioners from Dr. Pamela Roshell, Fulton’s deputy chief operating officer for health and human services, at the board’s Aug. 21 recess meeting at Assembly Hall in downtown Atlanta.
In late July WebMD and Georgia Health News reported that elevated emissions of ethylene oxide, cancer-causing chemicals, have been produced by Sterigenics, an Oak Brook, Illinois-based company, at its plant in Smyrna.
Cobb County and the cities of Atlanta and Smyrna are partnering to fund an air quality test separate from the one the Georgia Environmental Protection Division is conducting both in Smyrna and at a similar BD Bard-owned plant in Covington that has also released carcinogens.
Roshell addressed the board, saying at last week’s Environmental Protection Agency meeting, officials reported the agency did establish a plan which would call for monitoring and sampling air quality in the areas near those two plants.
But Roshell said there are no immediate plans to re-monitor those sites that were identified in a 2014 EPA report at this time.
“However, the EPA plans to revisit those sites pending the results of the monitoring of the communities in close proximity to the Sterigenics plant,” she said.
District 3 Commissioner Lee Morris responded by saying a county like Fulton, which has the responsibility for its residents’ health and welfare, should “have something it can do, such as doing testing itself in the areas of the county that were not going to be tested unless there is a problem with the air quality at other tested sites.”
In response, Roshell said the federal agency that studies toxic substances with the Georgia Department of Public Health will look at the public health impact and the air quality.
“At this time, until we get further information from the monitoring of air quality samples and the public health, we do not have enough information about the impact,” she said.
“The EPA has promised to provide us with updates as soon as they learn what the monitoring plan for a (separate) facility that is in unincorporated Fulton County.”
District 4 Commissioner Natalie Hall said she had been contacted by numerous constituents about the situation at the Sterigenics plant and its impact on those in her district.
“Will you work with our lobbyists to follow the situation and also connect with our state Legislature on this?” she said. “It was told to me that one of the state legislators told his constituents to lobby many of those at the state level about this issue. That was how we would get it addressed.”
Roshell said the monitoring results should be available in November, and she would again meet with the board once they are submitted.