UH eNews August 2019
In case you live in or near that area (between Smyrna and Atlanta, the intersection of Atlanta Road and Plant Atkinson) or otherwise find it interesting, we are including some highlights of the meeting below. This is not related to a pending or potential case.
If you haven’t heard of the story, here is a pretty good article with the background: https://www.wabe.org/ghn-webmd-report-smyrna-covington-neighborhoods-unaware-of-airborne-cancer-causing-toxin/
Plaintiff lawyer Michael Geoffrey is advertising about it and soliciting clients. There are some television ads, and there is this web ad: https://www.breakinginjurynews.com/georgia-cancer-victims-ethylene-oxide/?utm_campaign=Georgia%20Cancer&utm_source=adwords&utm_term=ethylene%20oxide&utm_medium=ppc&hsa_ad=373037238364&hsa_grp=76234631746&hsa_kw=ethylene%20oxide&hsa_ver=3&hsa_net=adwords&hsa_acc=8155771173&hsa_src=g&hsa_cam=2076928781&hsa_mt=p&hsa_tgt=kwd-299514615276&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIl_X1yP_d4wIVlpOzCh34KQNNEAAYASAAEgIuGfD_BwE
The meeting was well-attended, and the fire marshal stopped letting folks in. Several elected officials were in attendance (City of Smyrna, City of Atlanta, Cobb Co. Commissioners, State Senators Allen and Jordan and a rep from Congressman Loudermilk’s office). Senator Allen began the meeting by “correcting the record” on two reports from the day, saying: (1) EPA/EPD were not in attendance, but both will attend (with CDC) at 8/19 meeting, and (2) state senators, EPD and others did have a facility tour earlier in the day, but it was neither a secret meeting nor a pre-meeting. Tim Gould, City of Smyrna Councilman, said that Smyrna would be paying for independent testing separate from any testing the EPA may authorize.
There are scheduled meetings on Thursday at St. Benedicts and on 8/19 at Benjamin Prep. Sterigenics has a website devoted to the issue here: https://www.sterigenicsatlanta.com/ Cobb promised to have a website up to have a single site to collect information from various levels of government in the coming days.
Senator Jordan introduced Sterigenics President Phil McNabb and closed her opening remarks by noting that she had three unanswered questions (some of which were not just statements): (1) While Sterigenics talks about measures of ethylene oxide release, they don’t talk about fugitive emissions, (2) self-reporting emissions is a problem and (3) at a minimum, Sterigenics knew ethylene oxide was a carcinogen in 2006 — why are we just hearing about it now?
With that, President McNabb walked briefly through the company’s mission, some background about ethylene oxide, the current process and proposed improvements and its emissions. The company sterilizes about a million one-time-use instruments (like a syringe) each day. This is a service provided to device manufacturers, who make the products in (unclean) factories. So, if the manufacturer doesn’t want to sterilize its products after production, they can farm it out to Sterigenics. McNabb then said the product determines the sterilization process. He said that ethylene oxide was required for some products.
He then talked about ethylene oxide, stating it was naturally-occurring and also common in manufactured (man-made) products. Naturally, dead plants and humans emit ethylene oxide; common man-made emissions are diesel trucks and anything with an open flame. According to him, ethylene oxide was in water bottles, carpets, antifreeze, and other common products.
The EPA is doing studies to determine the levels of ethylene oxide in the ambient air. He then had a chart of studies of ambient air in various urban locations, ranging .24-.40 (the measurement is per cubic meter). According to modeling provided by Georgia EPD, Sterigenics’ contribution to the surrounding ambient air was .02. (This drew groans from the audience because the EPD’s modeling is based off of Sterigenics’ numbers. When Sterigenics had this issue in Illinois, there was a large dispartity between CDC’s numbers and Sterigenics’ self-reported numbers. Sterigenics claims the other numbers failed to account for other ethylene oxide contributors, and the folks who like CDC numbers point to the drop in EO emissions while Sterigenics was closed as reliable figure of their contribution). He referenced (but it was not included in the materials) a Cobb County study of the ethylene oxide contributions from diesel trucks that showed that the trucks contributed about 3,400 pounds annually.
Sterigenics, he said, contributed ~220/lbs last year, which amounts to .1 of its total volume. The current EPA and EPD regulations require 99% control of ethylene oxide emissions. McNabb said that amounted to 4,000 pounds/year as a permissible limit. He continued to say that Sterigenics had worked with EPD to come up with a three-pronged approach to reduce ethylene oxide emissions more: (1) connecting the vacuum pump emissions to a second existing emission control system, (2) installing a negative pressure system (aimed at catching the fugitive emissions), and (3) sealing off ventilation points. This new system will take 12-24 weeks to implement and will reduce the ethylene oxide omissions to about 40 pounds per year (which was something like .0005 of the emissions).
And then it was question time. It was something of a mixed bag as open mics generally are. Here are some quick bullet points on some of the more attention-grabbing points as this as likely gone on way too long anyway:
— Underwood Hills Leadership Team