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GA EPD, BD to appear in Newton County courtroom Oct. 28
BD Plant
Flags fly outside the Covington, Ga., medical sterilization facility of New Jersey-based Becton, Dickinson and Co. on Aug. 8, 2019. - photo by David Clemons

COVINGTON, Ga. - On Monday, Oct. 28, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division will stand before Alcovy Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Eugene Benton - in a Newton County courtroom at 9:30 a.m. - to motion for Becton Dickinson to temporarily cease operations in Covington.

Attorney General Chris Carr filed a complaint in the Newton County Superior Court against BD, a medical equipment sterilization company, on the behalf of the GA EPD and Gov. Brian Kemp on Oct. 21 after the company operated "in an unlawful manner," according to the Office of the Attorney General press release.

The complaint was filed after a week-long incident at BD - which occurred between Sept. 15 and Sept. 22 - that allowed 54.5 pounds of ethylene oxide to be leaked into the community's air. Carr claimed the leak was caused by "a lack of diligence and prolonged operator error rather than an equipment malfunction," according to the press release.

PDF: BD Sept. 23 incident report

"In addition, BD has failed to take all responsible precautions to prevent fugitive emissions of ethylene oxide in a timely manner as required by the Act, the Rules and its Air Quality Permit," the press release stated.

BD responded to the state's claims of unlawful operations in an Oct. 21 statement, stating the filed complaint was "an unnecessary move."

"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," the company stated. "We are concerned about the risk the State of Georgia’s actions poses to the patients our products serve in Georgia and nationwide."

BD claimed the GA EPD never notified the facility of any violations until the lawsuit was filed, according to the company's Oct. 25 affidavit.

PDF: BD Oct. 25 affidavit

"Until it filed this lawsuit, Plaintiff Richard E. Dunn, Director, Environmental Protection Division, Georgia Department of Natural Resources never notified Defendant Becton Dickinson and Company that it was violating either its Air Quality Permit, the Georgia Air Quality Act, the federal Clean Air Act or any other environmental statute or regulation," according to the company's statement. "In fact, prior to this lawsuit, EPD repeatedly informed BD that it was in full compliance with its permit and all applicable laws and regulations."

BD advised the court to "examine the evidence" provided by the GA EPD, claiming lack thereof. 

In addition, BD provided the court with numerous documentation as evidence of the communication between the facility and the GA EPD. The documentation included a timeline of events, emails and scientific calculations to show regulatory compliance.