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Warehouse operated by company already under fire for emitting cancer-causing chemicals violated clean air rules: EPD

The latest violation for BD focuses on an offsite warehouse where sterilized medical equipment is stored.

COVINGTON, Ga. — A Georgia company already under scrutiny for releasing cancer-causing toxins into the air has been dinged again by the state for reportedly violating air quality rules at another one of its properties. 

The latest violation for BD focuses on an offsite warehouse, called the Global Distribution Center, where sterilized medical equipment is stored. 

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division said in a letter the warehouse does not have the proper permit for the amount of ethylene oxide gas it is emitting under clean air standards. As such, the state agency is asking BD to monitor the air and install additional equipment to control emissions. The company has until 1 p.m. to respond to the state's request.

READ: Full letter from the Environmental Protection Division

In a fiery tweet, Governor Brian Kemp called the findings "concerning" and said the state is demanding BD remedy the situation. He added that the state is exploring legal action, and expects the company to do the right thing for Newton County. 

In a statement, BD said it is reviewing the state's notice and will respond before the deadline.

"Air monitoring data from inside and outside the facility confirm that BD’s facility is safe for employees and the community. Average EtO levels inside the facility are about 65% below the permissible exposure limits set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is the regulatory authority for EtO levels inside business facilities," the company said in a statement.

"External air monitoring data have also confirmed that EtO levels in the ambient air outside of the GDC is in line with “background” EtO levels," the company added.

BD has been under fire after its sterilization facility in Covington released ethylene oxide gas into the air without notifying the public of the risks. The toxic gas, widely used and relied on by the medical field to sterilize medical equipment, is a known carcinogenic. 

The state fought to close the Covington facility after it was revealed that the plant experience multiple leaks there and at another facility in Madison. 

RELATED: Open valve at sterilization plant was leaking cancer-causing gas into community for a week

The company relented, halting production while it added new features to reduce the amount of emissions mandated by the state, though BD maintains it has been operating within guidelines the whole time. It ultimately reopened in November after meeting the state's standards. 

In its most recent statement, BD reiterated that it believes that it has acted "transparently and collaboratively with local and state officials to innovate and identify new methods to voluntarily further reduce emissions from its facilities in Georgia."

In a response, the City of Covington said it "appreciates" the continued efforts by the Georgia EPD and "the support they are giving our community."

"While we are concerned by the notice of the recently released violations against BD's warehouse in Covington, we are confident BD will follow the actions and responses as directed by the EPD and regain compliance soon," the city said.

MORE COVERAGE

ORIGINAL STORY: Cancer-causing chemical in 2 Georgia communities leads to more cases of cancer, experts say

FDA sounds warning bell about negative impact of closing medical facilities emitting ethylene oxide

Doctors group says ethylene oxide is necessary despite cancer concerns

EPA announces new effort to reduce ethylene oxide emissions nationwide

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