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New Tazewell Residents Await Answers from EPA

In October of 2022, representatives of the US Environmental Protection Agency visited the city of New Tazewell, Tennessee, to discuss updated information on Ethylene oxide, known as ETO. The compound is used to sterilize medical equipment and is emitted by a commercial sterilization plant owned by DeRoyal Industries, which is surrounded by neighborhoods.

Although DeRoyal is currently in compliance with employee safety and environmental regulations for the use of the compound, recent data show ETO is 60 times more toxic than previously known. Months after the meeting, the community has yet to receive additional updates on new data or whether regulations were proposed. WUOT’s Jacqui Sieber spoke with Claiborne County Mayor Joe Brooks to learn more about the effect the meeting has had on the community.

Representatives of DeRoyal said they remain in close contact with the EPA and the Tennessee Department of Environment Conservation pending a review on current federal regulations to limit emissions. Representatives of TDEC said they remain in close communication with local officials until more information becomes available but cannot provide a comment at this time. The EPA and New Tazewell’s mayor’s office did not return calls for comment.

Jacqui was born and raised in Pittsburgh. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2021 with a bachelor’s in communications. Outside of work, she likes to go to baseball games, walk dogs at her local animal shelter, and hike.