New documents shed light on ‘rotten egg’ stench coming from SC factory

CATAWBA, S.C. — For months, thousands of people in York, Union and Lancaster counties, as well as parts of south Charlotte, have complained about the odor that seems to be coming from the New Indy Containerboard plant in Catawba, South Carolina.

Three class-action lawsuits have been filed against the paper mill over the smell.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control started investigating the issue in early March and had ordered the facility to submit a corrective plan to eliminate the foul odor by Tuesday. The plant submitted a plan but health officials said it did not meet all of the requirements.

Last week, New Indy placed a tarp over the basin and put fans in place to force the fumes through a carbon filter. According to the documents, this could solve the problem based on preliminary data.

The EPA believes the smell is from hydrogen sulfide, which is a chemical used at the plant.

Environmental officials said monitors are checking upwards of 20,000 times a day for levels of hydrogen sulfide in surrounding communities, which include:

  • Millstone Creek
  • Sun City
  • Tom Stevens Road
  • Marvin
  • Treetop

About half of them detected hydrogen sulfide, according to a report released Monday.

But the levels were all far below the bar set for minimal risk levels.

However, EPA inspectors detected dangerous levels of the gas during their inspection in April.

Alarms on personal gas monitors were tripped four times as they worked their way through the facility.

Hydrogen sulfide is a biproduct of the pulp-milling process.

New Indy produces about 750,000 of recycled containerboard.

Channel 9 learned the company has submitted several new documents that shed some light on what is happening. The papers indicated that the waste water treatment basin could be contributing to the odor, which neighbors describe as smelling like rotten eggs.

The process also uses a lot of water, and there’s an extensive treatment process before that wastewater ends up in the Catawba River.

EPA inspectors appeared to find issues in that treatment process.

Officials recently released video of a basin that was covered in solids and in some spots, vegetation was growing on them.

They found some equipment wasn’t even working because of the buildup.

(WATCH BELOW: EPA orders New Indy plant to reduce emissions causing foul odor near state line)