SC New-Indy paper mill cut emissions equipment, suit claims

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New Indy Paper Mill. Caroline from the south.

Photo courtesy of WFAE/Google Maps Radio

A stench that tainted the air in the Carolinas near Charlotte sparked a lawsuit Friday that accuses a paper mill of failing to obtain a pollution permit and shutting down key equipment that was vital to controlling odors.

Seven South Carolina residents who say they were affected by noxious smells from the New-Indy paper mill say the company never applied for a key air pollution permit because it turned off a device called a stripper at steam.

The federal lawsuit asks a court to order New-Indy to eliminate odors and reduce pulp production until the company obtains the air pollution permit. Known as the Prevention of Significant Deterioration Permit, the Air Pollution Permit is required by large new industries or large industries making significant changes to a plant.

New-Indy acquired the former Bowater paper mill in York County about three years ago and in 2020 began switching production from bleached paper to unbleached material. But the company took the stripper offline as it made changes.

After the steam cleaner was shut down, New-Indy sent millions of gallons of filthy waste — containing, among other things, hydrogen sulfide — directly to a sewage treatment plant, according to the lawsuit. This caused the area to be covered in odors, the suit said.

South Carolina regulators have received at least 47,000 odor complaints from area residents, with many saying the stench smells like rotten eggs. Complaints began in January 2021. People living on both sides of the state line near Charlotte were affected.

Lawyers for the area residents who sued Friday said they were seeking “a speedy end to New-Indy’s toxic emissions that have continued for more than a year. This community deserves better, and we look forward to holding New-Indy fully responsible for the damage it has caused.

Motley Rice, a prestigious Charleston law firm, is leading the lawsuit against New-Indy. Other law firms representing residents in the lawsuits include Baird’s firm, Mandalas of Delaware; and law firms that employ State Representatives Tommy Pope, R-York, and Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, and State Senator Dick Harpootlian, D-Richland.

A spokesperson for New-Indy said the company would not comment on the lawsuit. New-Indy has previously said it is working to make improvements and has recently been able to resolve the issues.

The lawsuit, one of two lawsuits announced Friday by residents’ attorneys, says New-Indy should be fined up to $20 million for violating quality laws. air if he does not apply for the pollution permit.

Separately, the people of South Carolina sent a formal notice to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency saying they intended to sue the agency in 60 days for “not diligently pursuing “New-Indy for past air pollution.

Friday’s action is the latest legal issue for New-Indy. The company is already facing a class action lawsuit seeking compensation for people who say they have been harmed by strong smells since the problem began in early 2021.

The EPA has also previously fined New-Indy $1.1 million, but the fine has not been finalized and the amount could be changed, pending federal court review. Meanwhile, SC’s Department of Health and Environmental Control recently fined the company nearly $130,000 for the stench it said was linked to problems with the waste treatment system. waste. DHEC also sent a letter asking the company to make improvements to the stripper.

Critics say those actions aren’t enough for a multimillion-dollar company. New-Indy is partly owned by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. The company has facilities across the country.

This story was originally published July 23, 2022 12:21 p.m.

Sammy Fretwell has covered the environmental beat for The State since 1995. He writes on a range of issues, including wildlife, climate change, energy, state environmental policy, nuclear waste and the coastal development. He has won numerous awards, including Journalist of the Year by the SC Press Association in 2017. Fretwell graduated from the University of South Carolina and grew up in Anderson County. Contact him at 803 771 8537.
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