COBB COUNTY, Ga. – Some people battling a local medical cleaning facility that uses a carcinogenic gas to clean equipment have learned it may not see a court day until 2023.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr learned this information from attorneys handling the cases.
They spoke virtually for concerned neighbors who were able to type their questions in a chat and refer back to recent conferences with judges handling the cases, saying a two year deadline might seem like a stretch, but given the In fact, where the courts are during the pandemic, and given the breadth of these cases, this is an encouraging timeline.
A big question is the statute of limitations on filing lawsuits. When is it too late to say you have been affected?
Lawyers say this would be by the summer, exactly two years after a news investigation sparked one of the biggest environmental controversies in the state.
“We’ll hold your feet to the fire. We’re going to hold them accountable for taking them to a jury of 12 strangers here in Cobb County, and we’re going to ask them to solve this problem – and we’re going to say, “Here’s what they did.” . Do what is right. Do what’s fair, ”said attorney Drew Asby.
Attorneys behind cancer survivors, estates and others affected by medical sterilization equipment emissions in Newton and Cobb counties say the first cases against the companies could go on trial by spring 2023.
The lawsuits, which were filed after a WebMD investigation in 2019 and revealed the Georgian environmental protection department, had been warned of high ethylene oxide emissions in certain census areas of the BD Bard and Sterigenics plants through 2017 and 2018.
The then federal government confirmed ETO cancer risks.
Both the Deal and Kemp administrations said they heard about it from reporting and testing data released earlier this year.
The neighbors asked for more information on why the state had not republished or warned the federal data before summer 2019.
At this point, they have completed their own modeling. This didn’t suggest the risks were as high as the EPA set, but the state EPD continued to call for lower emissions levels at the plants.
In the Sterigenics case, a series of regulatory issues and gas leaks resulted in two separate shutdowns – one voluntary as the company was working on emissions testing, and another ordered by Cobb County officials in the fall of 2019.
Last spring, HHS officials urged the governor and Cobb officials to reopen the facility so the PPE can be sterilized.
It remains open today during the health emergency – amid belated litigation with the county –
“To be honest, I cried. I cried when I first heard the news. And then I started talking on the phone, “said Janet Rau of Stop Sterigenics GA.
This week we heard even more concern from neighbors and lawmakers after the EPA released its general inspector’s report that political interference prevented the EPA from warning Illinois neighbors of ETO emissions risks.
It concludes that Bill Wehrum, the former Trump who was appointed head of the EPA’s Air and Radiation Office, directed agency investigators “not to make the surveillance results available to the public,” and the 2018 efforts has blocked the publication of the data associated with the institution.
Wehrum would step down in 2019 on concerns about ethical violations that as an attorney he represented some of the same environmental actors he was appointed to regulate.
Sterigenics declined to comment on the IG report.
And while the state EPD denies this week that political interference played a role in its decisions about regulating local work and dealing with the public, it is raising new questions in the community.
“How would that affect the litigation and situation here in Cobb County?” State Representative Erick Allen asked Attorney Michael Geoffrey.
“I think it’s another piece of evidence that is going to have an impact, and I think the real impact for us is how many more is there out there?” How many of these government failed situations, industry buried things, are we going to find? “Said Geoffrey.
In addition to lawsuits filed over the radio in the area, people who live near the plant have also filed lawsuits for property devaluation.
Sterigenics employees have also come forward to complain about the exposure at the facility. Sterigenics has also sued Cobb County for the closure.