SMYRNA, Ga. (CBS46) The Sterigenics plant in Cobb County -- under fire for spewing toxins into the air for decades -- is closed indefinitely.

The action comes after the county put tight restrictions on the building.

The county attorney’s office sent a letter to lawyers for Sterigenics Tuesday saying the company is not permitted to engage in any construction or sterilization activity at its facility near Smyrna until it gets county approval.

Last week, the county reclassified the plant from an “industrial storage” facility to an “industrial high hazard” facility because of the potentially cancer-causing gas ethylene oxide the company uses to sterilize medical equipment. Having a “high hazard” classification means the company must meet stringent building and fire codes.

The plant suspended operations in August in order to install new emission controls per an agreement with the state, but the new classifications posed a challenge to the company.

On September 6, the company released the following statement:

“At the request of Governor Kemp and the EPD, Sterigenics has been working to expedite the installation of technology enhancements to our Atlanta facility and, as previously announced, has been operating under a reduced production schedule. The construction is proceeding ahead of schedule. We have determined that suspending sterilization operations, and the use of EO in those operations, throughout the duration of the work will enable us to further accelerate the installation of these enhancements and that doing so is the most efficient path to meeting the requests of all stakeholders. As we implement these enhancements to ensure that our facility operates in line with the highest control standards in the country, our team is also working with customers to minimize the impact on the supply of vital sterile medical products to hospitals and the patients who depend on them every day.

An oversight committee began checking air quality in the area surrounding the facility the week of September 6, just days before the announcement to suspend operations.

"We're aware of the operational shutdown at the facility," said Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon of the announcement. "The Task Force had already taken this into account during their planning, and those involved assure us it will not negatively impact our efforts.

"The citizens of Georgia are entitled to just as much protection from a known carcinogen as the citizens of Illinois," said State Senator Jen Jordan.

Meanwhile, the first legal action involving Sterigenics was filed in Fulton Superior Court.

Jordan and two residents living near Sterigenics are the Plaintiffs in the case, which argues the consent order agreed upon between Sterigenics and the EPD on August 7 was unlawful.

Sterigenics announced Monday it will shut down its ethylene oxide sterilization operations in Willowbrook, Illinois.

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(2) comments

Guest

And you have no idea how much this will drive up the cost of healthcare. I'm in the business and I do. Irresponsible government and reporting.

marlon76miami

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