BD Covington plant

COVINGTON, Ga. (CBS46) -- Georgia Governor Brian Kemp says the public's health is paramount amid toxic air scandals across the metro.

On Monday, Georgia's attorney general, on behalf of Governor Kemp's office,  filed a formal complaint asking a judge to temporarily suspend operations at Becton Dickinson medical sterilization facility in Covington.

“After months of failed negotiations, empty promises, and misleading reports of ethylene oxide leaks, we have filed a Temporary Restraining Order to suspend operations at BD in Covington. Our top priority is the health and well-being of Georgia families. This measure is necessary to ensure transparency and prevent behavior that threatens the safety of employees and the community,” said Kemp.

The toxin at the center of this ongoing health concern is ethylene oxide, a chemical known to cause cancer. Air quality testing showed the area surrounding the plant had high levels of the chemical used to sterilize medical equipment.

The Office of Attorney General Chris Carr says, "BD should be shut down until it demonstrates to the Court that it has completed the following actions:

  1. Trained all technicians on the proper operation of all valves in the facility;
  2. Completed corrective action to prevent a future release from all vacuum exhaust valves at the facility by installing blanks on the outlets to all vacuum exhaust valves to prevent flow regardless of valve position or condition; and
  3. Installed necessary pollution control equipment to capture fugitive emissions of ethylene oxide at the facility and route them to a control device with at least 99 percent efficiency.

In a letter, the Office of Attorney General, goes on to state that the release of 54.5 pounds of the carcinogen was due to "lack of diligence and prolonged operator error rather than an equipment malfunction." 

BD released a statement of its own, saying in part:

We will vigorously defend the company and patients’ ability to access critical medical devices using science-based evidence to ensure that patients are not harmed from unnecessary decisions by the State of Georgia that are not based on sound legal or scientific grounds.

We have been in discussions with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) since August on our voluntary investment of $8 million of improvements. Governor Brian Kemp, the Georgia EPD and

Mayor Johnston are ignoring science and facts and may be creating a risk to the health and safety of patients, including the elderly and children that rely on these devices to deliver critical interventions.

The company and the technology we have used in Covington represents the best available and was recently validated by a third-party testing firm to have a 99.999% destruction efficiency.

Click here to read full statement.

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