FILE - Sterigenics

Sterigenics facility outside of Atlanta.

Environmental protection officials sent a response team to investigate a gas leak at the Sterigenics facility in Smyrna, Georgia.

The Environmental Protection Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources got word Tuesday evening that the facility which has been criticized because of its use of high levels of ethylene oxide – a chemical gas that has been linked to cancer – had a leak that went unreported in late July.

 “As we gather information, we’ll keep the public informed and ensure accountability,"Gov. Brian Kemp wrote on Twitter Tuesday evening. "The safety of Georgians remains our top priority.”

The leak on July 31 led to an evacuation of the building located in Cobb County, according to the Atlanta Constitution Journal. The publication obtained a copy of an internal email chronicling the event.

The medical equipment sterilization company also released a statement about the incident.

Sterigenics employees were alerted of the leak by detection sensors, which triggered the evacuation and an investigation, according to the company.

“The source of the release was immediately identified and stopped. It was determined that less than six pounds of EO was released from a used EO drum on which the valve was not completely closed after use,” the statement said.

The amount of gas released was below the level required to be reported to the EPD, Sterigenics representatives said.

Any chemical release to the environment greater than 10 pounds must be reported to the Environmental Protection Agency, according to federal guidelines.

The company said that it “took immediate corrective actions to ensure similar incidents do not occur in the future.”

The EPD officials are investigating the details of the event.

Philip Macnabb, Sterigenics’ president, had a meeting with Cobb County commissioners the day before the news broke. Cobb County Commissioner Bob Ott told FOX 5 News that the company has now agreed to release monthly updates to the county. 

Sterigenics earlier this month agreed to launch ethylene oxide emission reduction efforts after receiving backlash from residents and county and state officials.

At a community meeting in Cobb County the day after the reported leak, Macnabb admitted that Sterigenics released about 3,000 pounds of the gas per year compared to the annual limit of 200 pounds.

Staff Reporter

Nyamekye Daniel has been a journalist for three years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel's work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.