Permit issue halts production at Sterigenics plant

Image 1 of 3

Production at the controversial Sterigenics plant near Smyrna is on hold after some tangles with permits surfaced.

Cobb County’s Fire Marshall and Chief Building Official are reviewing old and new permits which means that for now, the plant will not emit ethylene oxide.

Janet Rau, president of the grassroots group Stop Sterigenics Georgia, aims at shutting down the Smyrna plant to prevent the emission of ethylene oxide, a known carcinogenic chemical

UPDATED: Air monitors installed around Sterigenics plant

At the moment, the chemical is not coming out of the plant after Cobb County discovered the plant has operated under a storage use permit and not a high hazard permit.

“The building the way it’s actually operating should be in the high hazard category. It shows Sterigenics has not been operating according to county guidelines,” Rau said.

Cobb County Communications Director Ross Cavitt says the county discovered the permits discrepancy when Sterigenics applied for the high hazard permit for construction on so-called scrubbers to clean the air inside the facility.

“Their facility is essentially on hold right now until they get this worked out,” said Cavitt.

MORE: Cobb County officials react to reports of leak at Sterigenics plant

“Sterigenics submitted a local building permit application for its facility to install enhancements to the air emission control systems. That permit was granted," a spokesperson for Sterigenics said in a statement. "The sole purpose of the new equipment is to reduce emissions and the construction to install that equipment remains on track. The enhancements do not change the sterilization operations at the facility. We have been cooperating fully with local and state authorities throughout this process and will continue to do so.”

Cobb County’s Fire Marshal and chief building official will review the permits, putting the plant's process of sterilizing medical supplies on hold.

Cavitt told FOX 5 there is no set timeline.

“I’ve not received that from either our Fire Marshal or our Inspection Division Manager,” he said.

RELATED: Sterigenics president addresses Cobb County commissioners

This is happening as independent air quality testing using globe-like devices takes place at the plant.

The tests have also been put on hold.

“Not getting air testing means we’re also not getting ETO into our air so I’m good with that,” said Rau.

In the meantime, Fulton County has joined Atlanta, Smyrna and Cobb County in calling for independent testing of ETO. That also remains on hold until this permitting issue is resolved.