South Carolina paper plant to pay $1M fine, enters agreement with EPA

CATAWBA, S.C. — New Indy Catawba and the Environmental Protection Agency entered an agreement Wednesday that states the paper company has taken several corrective actions since the initial EPA order in May 2021.

The agreement, called a consent decree, was filed in court and resolves issues related to the Clean Air Act order that the EPA filed.

The EPA had taken action against New Indy in May after residents complained of a foul stench in the area of the plant located near South Carolina’s border with North Carolina.

The plant was the subject of class-action lawsuits by residents who said the smell negatively affected them.

“New-Indy worked with the EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice to resolve this matter and will comply fully with the agreement,” said Tony Hobson, the mill’s manager. “The mill has cooperated with regulators throughout the process, implemented a long list of improvements, and is grateful for this positive and constructive outcome.”

>>A full copy of the decree can be found here.

According to the decree, the plant’s monitoring system along the fence line hasn’t found any evidence of hydrogen sulfide that exceeds the limit since June 2021 -- the only exception was in early September as the company was adjusting its production process. New Indy said that situation was quickly corrected.

The company also said its offsite monitors never exceeded concentration limits and readings were negligible or zero for months. Daily emissions findings from both the fence line and offsite can be found here.

As part of the agreement with the EPA, New Indy said it will pay a fine of $1.1 million and continue to work on its operations. The company said it will, ”Operate its steam stripper when unbleached pulp is being processed, install a black-liquor containment system, install and maintain a carbon filtration system on its post-aeration tank, continue to monitor for hydrogen sulfide and improve its wastewater treatment system.”

A steam stripper helps clean volatile organic compounds from plant wastewater streams and a black liquor containment system captures mill process liquid byproduct to prevent overflow into the wastewater treatment system.

According to New Indy, the next step of the agreement is for a federal judge to give final approval to the decree after a 30-day comment period.

Statement from the EPA:

“The health and safety of the community is of the upmost importance to EPA. The lodging of the proposed consent decree represents the next step EPA is taking to implement enforceable actions at the New Indy facility to protect the community and the environment from harmful levels of hydrogen sulfide. It also represents EPA’s commitment to hearing the concerns of the community as we move forward with finalizing the consent decree.”

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