State Sen. Jen Jordan, D-Sandy Springs, is seeking court action against the Georgia Environmental Protection Division for its latest agreement with Sterigenics, a medical sterilization company that operates a facility in southeast Cobb.
Jordan, who used to live with her family near the Smyrna-area Sterigenics plant, has partnered with two Vinings residents who also live nearby to file a petition in Fulton County Superior Court.
They want a judge to invalidate the EPD’s Aug. 7 consent order for Sterigenics, which allows the company to keep operating while it installs equipment to better capture toxic chemicals and reduce emissions.
Jordan, whose Senate district includes the Sterigenics plant, issued a news release Friday announcing she and Vinings residents Todd Smith and Kim Baynes filed the court motion.
They claim the EPD consent order for Sterigenics was rushed, lacks input from the community and fails to protect residents from exposure to ethylene oxide — a carcinogen used in gas form by Sterigenics to sterilize medical devices and equipment.
Jordan, Smith and Baynes’ petition can be viewed here: https://bit.ly/2lA0Rft
It states the EPD, which is responsible for ensuring Sterigenics uses and emits ethylene oxide legally and safely, instead “failed to follow procedural rules that govern how the agency may lawfully enter into a consent order.”
This interfered with the rights of the petitioners and any other concerned citizens to be heard in opposition to the consent order, Jordan and her fellow petitioners claim, essentially seeking a new consent order that is subject to full public comment.
“Georgia EPD and Sterigenics negotiated a consent order behind closed doors and rushed to enter into an agreement without first making the public or other elected officials aware,” Jordan said Friday. “The resulting consent order provided none of the protections that residents have advocated for and it allowed Sterigenics to keep operating without limitation.”
Baynes, a Vinings resident, has lived near the Sterigenics plant for over 17 years, the petition states. Her husband, Jim Baynes, was diagnosed with leukemia in July 2017 and died from complications related to the disease in March 2018.
The petition states about 20 households in Baynes’ Olde Vinings Mill neighborhood, or one fifth of the properties there, have had occupants diagnosed with different cancers in recent years.
“Petitioner Baynes believes that her husband’s health was endangered, and that her own health is presently endangered, or may be endangered, by ethylene oxide emissions from Sterigenics, and at the very least, she would like (and would have liked) the opportunity to present their story and that of their neighborhood to the EPD for consideration prior to entering into any consent order with Sterigenics, but she has been deprived of that right,” the petition states.
Smith also lives in the Olde Vinings Mill subdivision, less than three miles from Sterigenics’ Cobb facility, and was diagnosed with lymphoma earlier this year, despite being in his early 40s and having had “generally good health” prior.
Jordan also lived for years with her husband and their two young children near the plant where increased cancer risks have been detected.
“If members of our community had been allowed to be heard, what EPD and Sterigenics would have agreed to would have looked very different,” she said, adding that Smyrna attorney and resident Cale Conley is working pro bono on the case.
In the petition, Jordan compares the EPD’s Aug. 7 consent order to one that Sterigenics was granted in Illinois to operate its similar sterilization facility there in Willowbrook.
Jordan said the Illinois officials imposed much stronger restrictions on Sterigenics there, and the Georgia EPD should follow suit.
“The citizens of Georgia are entitled to just as much protection from a known carcinogen as the citizens of Illinois,” she said.