Ross Terrell / GPB News

A lawsuit has been filed by employees of a distribution center in Lithia Springs and a medical sterilization plant in Cobb County.

On this Special Edition of Political Rewind, it’s a look at the biggest political stories of 2019.  A new governor put his unique stamp on Georgia, an unexpected resignation put the state front and center in the race for Senate, and two Georgia members of Congress announced their departures. 

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Residents of an Atlanta suburb want the federal government to investigate cases of cancer near a medical sterilization plant that uses a gas linked to an increase cancer risk.

Mike Derer / AP

Georgia’s attorney general has asked for a temporary injunction against the Becton Dickinson plant in Covington.

The lawsuit, filed in Newton County Superior Court, alleges BD Bard has violated the state’s Air Quality Act and rules for air quality control. The medical plant uses the carcinogenic gas ethylene oxide as a part of its operations.

Ross Terrell/GPB News

The Sterigenics plant in Cobb County has been ordered to shut down.

County leaders on Tuesday ordered the sterilization facility near Smyrna to stop all construction and activity.

The company, which uses the carcinogenic gas ethylene oxide to sterilize medical equipment, had voluntarily closed last month to install air scrubbers to reduce emissions.

Ross Terrell / GPB

Smyrna and Cobb County officials released the first results of independent tests of air quality near the Sterigenics facility. 

The results, released at Monday’s meeting of the community’s Air Quality Oversight Committee, revealed 80 percent of the samples collected showed non-detectable levles of the carcinogenic gas ethylene oxide.

The first round of independent test results are due out this week for the Sterigenics plant in Smyrna, and the community’s Air Quality Oversight Committee is scheduled to meet Monday.  Get an update on the story from Georgia Health News’ Andy Miller, and Web MD Brenda Goodman. Plus, take a look at what’s happening on the political side of it from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ’s Greg Bluestein.

Ross Terrell/GPB News

On Friday, Sterigenics medical facility in Cobb County said it will suspend operations while updates to reduce emissions of the toxic gas ethylene oxide are being installed. 

“At the request of Governor Kemp and the EPD, Sterigenics has been working to expedite the installation of technology enhancements to our Atlanta facility and, as previously announced, has been operating under a reduced production schedule," the company said in a statement. 

Ross Terrell / GPB News

An emergency response team was dispatched Tuesday to the Sterigenics plant in Cobb County to investigate reports of a toxic gas leak that forced employees to evacuate the facility last month.


The gas leak occurred in the early morning of July 31, just hours after a community meeting was held to address emissions concerns in Smyrna, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Ross Terrell/GPB News

On this edition of Political Rewind, Gov. Brian Kemp gives a vote of confidence to the Smyrna plant that critics say is emitting dangerous chemical waste after company officials take steps to reduce emissions.

Ross Terrell / Georgia Public Broadcasting

Cobb County residents and elected officials met Monday night at the Cobb Civic Center for a town hall on the Smyrna Sterigenics plant.

The company, which sterilizes medical products using ethylene oxide, has been releasing hundreds of pounds of the gas into the atmosphere. Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency classified it as a carcinogenic.

U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., speaks to constituents during a town hall meeting Tuesday, August 13, 2019, at a senior center in Lithonia, Ga.
John Amis / AP Photo

More than a week after an investigation by Georgia Health News and WebMD uncovered toxic levels of ethylene oxide in parts of metro Atlanta, congressman Hank Johnson wants to know why people in the impacted regions were not notified. 

Ross Terrell / GPB News

“Shut it down!”

These words echoed through the auditorium at Campbell Middle School in Cobb County, where more than 200 concerned residents crammed in for a meeting Tuesday night with Sterigenics and elected officials.