Jenni Shover of Smyrna (center) holds a sign during a protest against a Cobb County Sterigenics plant at the intersection of Atlanta Road and Plant Atkinson Road, Thursday, August 29, 2019. (Alyssa Pointer/alyssa.pointer@ajc.com)
Photo: Alyssa Pointer
Photo: Alyssa Pointer

THE LATEST: Kemp’s office criticizes Sterigenics over expedited construction plans

Gov. Brian Kemp’s office issued a blistering criticism of the company behind a controversial Cobb County industrial facility, saying it did not give the state time to assess an ambitious plan to expedite upgrades before issuing an announcement. 

In a statement, Kemp’s spokeswoman, Candice Broce, referenced the state’s ongoing investigation into Sterigenics over a toxic gas leak that forced employees to evacuate in July.

The emergency investigation, prompted by reporting by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was opened after Sterigenics entered into a legal agreement with environmental regulators last month to install new pollution controls in response to concerns over its permitted emissions of ethylene oxide, a carcinogenic gas, which the company uses to sterilize medical equipment.

On Friday, Sterigenics announced it was suspending sterilization operations so it could finish installing improvements by the first week in October.

“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 statement said. “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.”

Broce, however, appeared to throw cold water on Sterigenics’ announcement.

“Shortly after the state opened an investigation into an unreported evacuation of the Sterigenics facility in Smyrna, the company fully suspended operations—despite its initial refusal to do so—to focus on the installation of new, emission-reducing equipment,” she said in a statement. “Because the company has struggled to operate with adequate transparency, we have reservations about this new proposal. Inexplicably, state officials were afforded almost no time to vet its feasibility before the company announced it.”

“We have gathered new information through the course of the state’s ongoing investigation,” she continued. “We will withhold judgment on today’s announcement until we can independently assess the proposal. The safety of Georgia families remains our top priority.”

Asked to respond to Broce, a spokesman for Sterigenics said the company had no additional comment.

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