COBB COUNTY, Ga. - The Cobb County medical sterilization plant Sterigenics filed a restraining order against Cobb County Wednesday as the plant resumes operations to clean medical equipment needed for medical workers fighting the coronavirus.
The sterilization facility is back up and running after being shut down for environmental concerns last year. Community members said this restraining order may be doing more harm than help.
"The air we breathe is at stake," said Tony Adams, a member of Stop Sterigenics Georgia, a group of concerned citizens hoping to hold the company accountable to keeping the community safe.
The battle for clean air between the community and Sterigenics has been a months-long saga. The company uses a chemical, known as ethylene oxide, to clean medical equipment, but last year, its facilities were temporarily closed after the Georgia Environmental Protection Division declared Sterigenics was not following emissions standards.
"This all seems to be, with the restraining order, to be getting thrown at the window at least temporarily, and we don't understand that," said Adams.
In the last week, the FDA asked Sterigenics to resume operations to help sanitize critical protective equipment needed to fight the coronavirus. On Wednesday, a judge granted the facility a restraining order against Cobb County for the next 14 days, so the county can't interfere with those operations.
For the next two weeks at least, the facility will perform sterilizing procedures, but the Stop Sterigenics group said it is concerned because they haven't seen any test results from the facility to prove their emissions are in fact, at acceptable levels.
"We understand that the COVID-19 crisis is taking precedent over all of our lives," said Adams. "What we can't understand is how you can allow a company that's using ethylene oxide that has not been tested to be utilized," said Adams.
Sterigenics responded with the following statement:
“Sterigenics is pleased the Court has granted our emergency request for a temporary restraining order to allow us to fully resume the safe sterilization of medical products and supplies in Atlanta. This ruling enables Sterigenics to serve the urgent needs of health care workers and patients, without product limitation, as we begin the proceeding to establish our right to continue the safe operation of our longstanding facility in the interests of public health.”
The group said they hope Sterigenics will consider using alternative chemicals, like hydrogen peroxide, and eliminate concern for hundreds of families.
"There are alternatives for more than half of the products being sterilized using ethylene oxide, and we don't understand why there's been no push to go down that road," said Adams.
FOX 5 reached out to Cobb County who had no comment on the restraining order.
After the two weeks elapses, a judge would have to grant another temporary order for the facility to continue without being interrupted by Cobb County.