The state Environmental Protection Division — until recent air monitoring began — relied solely on the companies to report their emissions. Georgia has a history of being industry-friendly when it comes to environmental regulation. But under pressure from constituents, the state has recently taken a harder line.
Allen’s bill would require facilities to report any unpermitted release of ethylene oxide, regardless of amount. State law currently only requires reporting for a release greater than 10 pounds over a 24-hour period or if the amount of release isn’t immediately known.
In addition, Allen said his bill would require testing of ethylene oxide at the exhaust point of all permitted facilities, and continuous monitoring of emissions by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.
Allen’s announcement came as Becton Dickenson in Covington resumed operations after reaching an agreement with the state to stop sterilizing for a week. The consent order followed high concentrations of ethylene oxide in air tests commissioned by the city. The company did not immediately provide comment on the proposed legislation.
Meanwhile, Sterigenics in Cobb remains closed pending the issuance of local and state permits. The company declined to comment on the proposed bill.
Where are we now? Becton Dickenson in Covington has resumed operations after agreeing to temporarily shut down following high ethylene oxide concentrations in air tests. The company is now subject to more stringent reporting requirements, per a consent order with the state. Sterigenics in Cobb County remains closed pending the issuance of new local and state permits. Some of those could be difficult to obtain: the county is requiring the plant to meet a stricter fire code than before, while the state has asked for proof the plant's new emission control system works as intended before issuing a permit.
What's next? The state continues conducting air tests for ethylene oxide across Georgia. Resident activists are demanding both Sterigenics and BD plants close permanently. Lawmakers, under pressure from constituents, are expected to debate additional regulation in the upcoming legislation session.