U.S. EPA wants information on toxic gas from Cobb Sterigenics facility

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Building is shown in Washington.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP Photo

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is asking Sterigenics, a Cobb County company that has come under fire in the past few years, to report its releases of a toxic gas.

The company sterilizes medical equipment using ethylene oxide, which can cause cancer.

It’s one of more than 30 companies the EPA sent letters to earlier this month, notifying them that the agency plans to start requiring them to report releases of ethylene oxide to the Toxics Release Inventory, a federal database.

Sterigenics has been under scrutiny following an EPA assessment finding that ethylene oxide was more dangerous than the agency had previously thought. In 2019, WebMD and Georgia Health News found that the federal agency and the state of Georgia had failed to notify nearby residents of the risk.

Since then, Sterigenics installed new controls on its Cobb County plant to limit more emissions.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division is now evaluating a new permit for the facility. The permit would require ethylene oxide emissions reporting, as well as an emissions cap, emissions monitoring and new emissions controls, which have already been installed. In public hearings on the draft permit in February, many commenters pushed back, asking for more stringent rules, or saying they thought the plant should be closed completely.

The facility had stopped operating for a time, but resumed in early 2020.

The EPA gave Sterigenics 30 days to respond to its letter. A representative from the company declined to comment to WABE.