The outside of the Sterigenics building near Smyrna. ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/SPECIAL TO THE AJC
Photo: Elijah Nouvelage
Photo: Elijah Nouvelage

The Jolt: When industry and neighborhoods mix, trouble often follows

Later today, we’ll post a column on the bipartisan crisis management team that sprang up in Cobb County after news broke that a factory near Smyrna had been sending ethylene oxide, a cancer-causing chemical, into the air.

The land where the Sterigenics plant sits has been zoned for industrial use since 1972. What’s changed is the increased housing on the south end of the county – some of it quite expensive.

“It highlights the fact that if you’re going to have industrial areas, you have to respect them,” said Cobb County Commissioner Bob Ott, whose district includes the Sterigenics plant. Factories and residential neighborhoods are a poor mix.

“When you put the two together, you’re going to have a conflict. You can’t be fair to both. One clearly doesn’t fit with the other,” Ott said.

Cancer deaths have also spiked in one census tract in Covington, near a similar medical sterilization facility.

On Thursday, the office of Gov. Brian Kemp issued its first public statement on the situation. “We will work around the clock to address this situation and keep Georgia families safe,’’ said spokeswoman Candice Broce.

Kemp’s office has scheduled a 1 p.m. Friday conference call with local legislators and representatives of the state Environmental Protection Division. 

"We are aware of what’s going on. We’re on top of that. We’re talking and meeting daily the last couple of weeks,” the governor said Friday. “People need to know that we’re aware and concerned and I’ll be getting briefs later on today."

He was asked by one of your Insiders whether he would order the state to conduct more air-pollution testing of the area around the two plants, one of the demands of local residents.

“I know that we’ve been talking to the companies about stepping up the monitoring and the testing and how that’s done,” Kemp said. “I wouldn’t want to comment on that now, but everything is on the table.”

***

Vice President Mike Pence will be in Buckhead today, headlining a conference of political conservatives organized by WSB Radio pundit Erick Erickson. Meanwhile, about 1,000 delegates to the Democratic Socialists of America convention will meet in downtown Atlanta to discuss the group’s future and its plans to support U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential bid.

***

At 5 p.m. Thursday, the only black Republican in the U.S. House announced he wouldn’t seek reelection next year, jolting the party's efforts to appeal to minority voters and complicating its plans to regain control of the chamber in 2020.

U.S. Rep. Will Hurd of Texas had clashed with President Donald Trump over race and immigration. Eight other GOP members of the House have given their exit notices, including two of the chamber’s 13 Republican women.

Hurd’s departure would make U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina the only African-American Republican in Congress.

***

Also in Washington, it was looking like senators were about to confirm Steven Grimberg to Atlanta's U.S. district court bench before heading out on their August recess, but the chamber ultimately punted. There was no action on former U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland’s long-stalled Amtrak nomination, either. The chamber reconvenes after Labor Day. 

***

Our AJC colleague Tyler Estep has an update on a July 15 incident that was overshadowed by that confusing grocery-store flap involving state Rep. Erica Thomas, D-Austell:

The Gwinnett County man accused last month of placing “I love Trump” bumper stickers on a local politico’s car and then chasing her in his vehicle was arrested Thursday afternoon on a misdemeanor charge tied to the incident.

WIlliam Thomas Dunaway, 57, was booked into the county jail on a criminal trespass charge taken out by the solicitor general’s office, which prosecutes misdemeanors.

Sharon Wood, the first vice-chair of the Gwinnett County Democratic Party, said she was leaving a Lawrenceville grocery store when she noticed someone had put a pair of stickers supporting President Donald Trump on her car. They were covering up other stickers promoting former candidate for governor Stacey Abrams and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Wood said she then heard a man yelling across the parking lot calling her a traitor.

Wood, 70, said she drove away but soon realized that the man was following her in his work van. She said she was followed for miles until she made a sharp left turn into a strip mall parking lot.

***

In Columbus, Chuck Williams of WRBL reports that at least eight posters promoting a group called “PatrioFront.U.S.” were plastered on Temple Israel on Monday night by two men wearing masks and gloves, according to footage from security cameras.

The Southern Poverty Law Center labels the group a white nationalist hate group that formed after the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va. 

Former Columbus mayor Teresa Tomlinson, now a Democratic candiate for the U.S. Senate, was among those condemning the vandals, calling the incident “the latest in a disturbing trend of increased anti-semitism and hate crimes across America since 2016.”

***

For the first time, the FBI has identified the networks of fringe conspiracy theories as a potential domestic terrorism threat, according to an intelligence bulletin, Yahoo News reported on Thursday.

The FBI bulletin, issued on May 30, specifically mentions QAnon, a shadowy network that believes in a deep state conspiracy against President Donald Trump.

Most Georgia elected officials have steered clear of QAnon, but the same can’t be said for everyone. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a longshot Republican congressional candidate for Georgia’s Sixth District, has posted a series of tweets defending QAnon, including one encouraging her followers to message her with questions so she can “walk you through the whole thing.”

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