Opinion: Good steps so far should continue around Sterigenics plant

Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

On Monday night, hundreds of citizens packed the Cobb County Civic Center, seeking answers about a potentially troubled plant in Smyrna that sterilizes medical equipment and other products.

The plant, owned by a company called Sterigenics, was among several locations in Georgia flagged by the EPA as having the potential for an elevated cancer risk from ethylene oxide – a carcinogen used in the sterilization process.

Sterigenics insists there’s nothing to worry about.

But residents are still concerned – and rightfully so.

In the meantime, federal, state and local officials appear to now be doing their part to get to the bottom of the air quality issue.

Good for officials in Cobb County and in Smyrna for finding the money to conduct their own air tests near the Sterigenics facility, and to the City of Atlanta for agreeing to join the two governmental bodies in their testing.

Good for Gov. Brian Kemp, who on Tuesday convened a meeting among state leaders and executives of the Sterigenics plant in Smyrna and another sterilization facility in Covington.

Above all else, good for residents, who refused to allow their concerns to be overshadowed by assurances that everything will be OK.

It was, after all, mounting pressure from the community that prompted the state’s Environmental Protection Division to collect its own samples.

While these steps are admirable, it’s now time for the state to do more.

It should collect samples from around the plant for 30 consecutive days, as residents and elected officials have demanded.

There’s simply too much at stake. And residents deserve to know that the air in their neighborhoods is safe.

The Editorial Board.