Community concerned after neighborhood exposed twice to potentially hazardous air

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A South Memphis community has been targeted twice by potentially hazardous fumes.

On Wednesday, FOX13 told you about concerns a sterilization plant on Florida St. may be emitting a dangerous gas into the air.

Eight months earlier, a cotton gin in that same community was shut down for permit violations and pollution concerns.

“I wish they would stop bringing these scary industries in these areas. I mean, this is the second time,” Earnest Jenkins, who lives on Davant Avenue in South Memphis, said.

As concerns over the air quality in his community grow, Jenkins worries what he’s breathing in may be harmful.

“This is one of the poorest parts of Memphis, so it would be really hard for people to deal with that,” he said.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently told the city that Sterilization Services of Tennessee could be emitting a dangerous gas into the air. It’s called ethylene oxide, or EtO.

READ MORE: EPA concerned about air quality around South Memphis business

Though the facility is following the EPA’s current safety rules and regulations, the agency said they’re learning new information about EtO emissions.

Over time, continuous exposure to high levels of the chemical gas could make people sick.

READ MORE: EPA: Chemical in medical-device cleanser poses cancer risk

Just a few streets down on Mallory Ave., the Shelby County Health Department shut Planter’s Gin Company down in December for permit violations and pollution concerns.

The health department said cotton gins emit what’s called particulate matter into the air. Exposure to the fine particles could make people sick.

RELATED: Health department shuts down Memphis cotton gin for permit violations

“At night, sometimes there would be like almost little white particles of cotton flying everywhere,” Joshua McClenton, who lives behind the cotton gin, said.

As the city and health department plan to work with the EPA to further test the air surrounding the facilities, the people FOX13 talked to want to know if they are safe.

“I have a couple children, younger children, and my nieces are over here. I don’t want them playing outside if the air is dangerous,” McClenton said.

The city hired a company to test the air near the sterilization plant. EtO levels were not detected over permissible limits during the four-day monitoring period.

READ MORE: EPA plans community outreach to address air quality concerns in South Memphis

The EPA is also hosting a community meeting in Memphis on September 8.

CLICK HERE to register to attend that meeting.