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'Time is of the essence to shut this place down'
Local woman, with stage 4 terminal cancer, addressed Covington mayor during the Oct. 21 city council meeting
Melissa Persall
Melissa Persall, diagnosed with stage four terminal cancer, addressed Covington Mayor Ronnie Johnston about shutting Becton Dickinson, or BD, down during the Oct. 21 city council meeting. - photo by Submitted Photo

COVINGTON, Ga. - A local woman, diagnosed with stage 4 terminal cancer, was another face in the crowd at the Oct. 21 city council meeting until she stood to address Covington Mayor Ronnie Johnston about how important it was to shut Becton Dickinson down as soon as possible.

Melissa Persall - dressed in her orange "Say No to EtO" shirt - told Johnston "Time is of the essence to shut this place [BD] down" as she did not have much time left to live.

oct. 21 council meeting
Local residents gathered at Legion Field for the Oct. 21 City of Covington council meeting. - photo by Caitlin Jett

"I have stage 4 terminal cancer. I don't have long," she said. "You know what? All your statistics - everybody's statistics - doesn't matter. Any amount is unacceptable, anywhere on this Earth. It never should have been in this community, in our town, in our home, in our air to begin with. I'm just saying time is of the essence to shut this place down."

Johnston assured the crowd that as long as the community continued to fight, the battle will be won.

"Let's pull together as a community as one and keep fighting this thing. We'll win," he said. "We're not fighting alone. The entire state of Georgia is taking a stance, which is a great thing."

After the meeting was called to order, Johnston informed the residents that Attorney General Chris Carr filed a complaint in the Newton County Superior Court on the behalf of Gov. Brian Kemp and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to temporarily stop BD from operating in Covington.

"Today’s action by the state of Georgia is a result of BD’s lack of response to these recent violations, which is in stark contrast to the response that Gov. Kemp and EPD have gotten from other similar medical commercial sterilizers in Georgia that have complied with EPD’s requests and are progressing in their efforts to reduce ethylene oxide emissions," the Office of the Attorney General press release stated. "Despite Governor Kemp and EPD’s attempts at continued, transparent communication, the state believes that BD has failed to be a cooperative partner and has not demonstrated to EPD that it has made progress toward reducing ethylene oxide emissions at its Covington facility."

Shortly after the meeting adjourned, Samrat S. Khichi, executive vice president, general counsel, public policy and regulatory affairs for BD, published a press release, which claimed the attorney general's action was "unnecessary."

"The attorney general’s action is an unnecessary move given the company’s high level of cooperation and is inconsistent with our continued dialogue with the state to implement voluntary improvements at our Covington facility," he said. "We are concerned about the risk the State of Georgia’s actions poses to the patients our products serve in Georgia and nationwide."

We will vigorously defend the company and patients’ ability to access critical medical devices using science-based evidence to ensure that patients are not harmed from unnecessary decisions by the State of Georgia that are not based on sound legal or scientific grounds."