A Congressman whose district is home to the Cobb County plant at the center of an ethylene oxide emissions controversy is asking the federal Environmental Protection Agency for answers on how it will address health concerns raised by residents.
U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, who represents Georgia’s 11th Congressional District, announced Tuesday that he has sent a letter to federal Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler to get answers on “how the agency is investigating this public health issue” surrounding Sterigenics, he said in a statement.
Elected officials and residents have expressed outrage since July after news reports were published that a 2018 EPA study warned of potential increased long-term risk of cancer in census tracts near the Sterigenics facility in Smyrna. It also found potential higher long-term cancer risks near a similar sterilization facility in Covington that also uses ethylene oxide.
A town hall meeting held Monday by the EPA and state officials featured panelists who discussed the risk of the gas and the steps agencies are taking to regulate emissions from plant. Loudermilk did have a representative attend Monday’s town hall, said Brandon Cockerham, Loudermilk’s communications director.
The 11th Congressional District includes all of Bartow and Cherokee counties and parts of Cobb and Fulton counties. Loudermilk, a Republican from Cassville, wants to know what the EPA is doing to help local elected officials with its investigations, if it support efforts to conduct independent air tests to identify risks, how will it ensure companies are reporting accurate information to the EPA, what are its processes to notify residents of potential risks and if it is planning to conduct additional tests to identify risks posed by the gas.
“Given the recent reports regarding the use of this chemical gas by Sterigenics, and the potential health risks associated with breathing it in the air, it is imperative for citizens in my District, and the surrounding area, to get answers to our concerns,” Loudermilk said.
Questions he has posed to the EPA include details of how the agency is cooperating with the state Environmental Protection Division, and how it’s assisting Cobb County and Smyrna in their investigations. He also asked how the federal agency ensures that Sterigenics is reporting accurate information to EPA and whether it’s planning any further tests of the risks posed by the chemical.
Loudermilk is the latest elected official to wade into the debate surrounding Sterigenics and federal and state agencies’ regulation of ethylene oxide emissions. The gas is used to sterilize medical equipment.
On Monday, Democratic state lawmakers State Sen. Jen Jordan of Atlanta and State Rep. Erick Allen of Smyrna called on Gov. Brian Kemp to shut down the plant until the business can prove they are not violating emission regulations.
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