By Maurice Carter, Sustainable Newton President
I remember vividly the last time I saw my fellow Sustainable Newton Board members in person, on the evening of March 9, gathered around a table in our usual meeting room at First Presbyterian Church of Covington.
Three days earlier, 21 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed on a cruise ship off the California coast, and the disease had reached a nursing home in Washington state. But the World Health Organization had yet to declare a pandemic.
Still, I recall the awkward silence when a colleague sneezed several times. "Bless you," we said out loud, but our body language was a little more complicated. We adjourned at the end of the meeting without saying so, but I suspected we might not see each other again for a month or two.
And, then, all Hell broke loose.
By the Sustainable Newton Board of Directors
We added a new word to our vocabulary in 2019 -- more accurately, an acronym. That acronym was "EtO," short for ethylene oxide.
This was an unfamiliar term for nearly everyone in Newton County, but news coverage of releases of this known carcinogen from the Becton Dickinson (BD) facility in Covington soon had everyone talking and local governments pressed to act. In October, we commended the Covington Mayor and City Council for their response to the situation.
Much has happened since, with BD eventually resuming operations at their Industrial Boulevard facility with new air quality testing in place. However, in late December, BD was again cited by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) for not reporting the existence and release of EtO at a warehouse in Covington's Lochridge Business Park.
By Theodosia Wade, Sustainable Newton Vice President
I am so proud of our community! Monday night’s meeting of the Covington City Council was a great example of how government should work for and with the people. Because Mayor Ronnie Johnston and the city council pursued independent ethylene oxide (EtO) air testing in our community, we could get facts without relying on self-reported data from Becton Dickinson (BD). The test results came back showing EtO levels much higher than that deemed safe by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). So, once again, the mayor and council stepped up and made the difficult decision to ask BD to temporarily cease operations.