MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Environmental Protection Agency will reach out to people in hundreds of homes near an industrial plant in South Memphis, the city of Memphis said Wednesday.
The EPA plans to share information about samples taken near Sterilization Services of Tennessee at 2396 Florida Street.
City officials say the plant uses a commercial sterilizer that uses a chemical gas called ethylene oxide to sterilize devices such as medical equipment. The levels of those chemicals found in the sampling fall within EPA guidelines for short-term exposure.
However, city officials said there is concern that lifetime exposure to the chemical could increase the risk for long-term health effects in the community. The EPA wants to work with communities to develop more protective Clean Air Act standards for the emissions.
“Today’s EPA announcement about the possibility of increased risk around facilities that use EtO understandably raises concerns of people that live in the area,” Mayor Jim Strickland said in a statement. “I will do everything I can to get immediate and definitive testing by EPA of this facility and information to our citizens so that we can understand whether a risk exists and what we can do to mitigate it.”
Congressman Steve Cohen also responded to the concerns Wednesday evening in the following statement:
“I am very concerned about the emissions based on the history of this chemical in other cities. It is fortunate that the risk was detected and that federal officials are working to address it. I am in close contact with the EPA and Memphis and Shelby County officials to ensure that adequate testing and safety measures are in place and to engage the surrounding community about the risk of exposure.”
The city will send information by mail to the 292 homes in the community just north of the facility.
Results of a recent environmental test performed by a city contractor are linked here.