COVINGTON, Ga. - The City of Covington announced the completion of its independent seven-day air quality test during the Oct. 7 council meeting; however, Mayor Ronnie Johnston said the results may be tainted due to ethylene oxide leakage self-reported by Becton Dickinson, or BD Bard.
From Sept. 17 through Sept. 22, BD self-reported an ethylene oxide release of 7 pounds over an eight-day period, according to BD incident report sent to the Environmental Protection Division. The leakage went unnoticed until Sept. 23.
BD was not required to report this leakage to anyone as the leakage remained below the reportable quantity of 10 pounds over a 24-hour period, according to BD Communication and Marketing Executive Troy Kirkpatrick.
Kirkpatrick said BD remained transparent during the incident.
"If we were trying to hide something, we simply wouldn’t have reported it. We weren’t legally required to report it to anyone, including EPD, but we voluntarily did anyway," he said. "We are being criticized for not being transparent when the only reason anyone knows about this event is because we were transparent."
He added that the city was given the report by BD, and the city decided to release the report, which the company was fine with.
"This event shows that we are transparent, not the other way around," he said.
Johnston said the city's seven-day air quality testing, completed by third-party company Montrose Environmental, could have been "potentially skewed" because the testing was done at the same time the leakage occurred.
"Unfortunately, during our process of testing, at the same exact time, there was some leakage or spillage," he said. "I have immediately entered into discussions with Bard about them paying for the cost of the entire first test and us retesting as soon as possible. That conversation is not getting anywhere right now."
Dr. Michael Dourson, director of science at Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment, said the amount of EtO leaked at the Covington facility was no risk to the residents.
"There is absolutely no concern for a potential cancer risk from a release like this because cancer risk is nearly always driven by long-term, continuous exposures, not a small increase over a week," he said. "Moreover, the risk of a large exposure at one time is not cancer, but acute conditions, like burning eyes, problems with breathing, etc.
"Eight or so pounds over several days is not at the levels of concern for these acute conditions either. Thus, this small added release over several days would not cause short or long term effects."
Montrose Environmental will discuss the air quality results during the Oct. 21 council meeting, according to Johnston.