According to local media reports, South Carolina health leaders are urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to quickly take action against New Indy over odor issues emanating from its containerboard manufacturing plant in Catawba, South Carolina. Once EPA makes its determination, the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) says it will issue an enforcement order to the facility, an order that could take stronger actions that go beyond the measures of any federal decree.

Thousands of neighbors living nearby have lodged formal complaints about the constant rotten egg smell. In December, the EPA proposed a $1.1 million fine if the paper mill did not comply with Clean Air Act standards. The South Carolina DHEC says they continue to work with state and federal leaders to address the negative impact the New Indy facility is having on the wellbeing of the people who live in the area.

To more quickly mitigate the odor issues stemming from operations at New Indy, DHEC is urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to expedite the process of determining whether it will proceed with a Consent Decree with New Indy. The EPA lodged a proposed consent decree and says New Indy has agreed to robust relief designed to prevent hydrogen sulfide (H2S) concentrations above levels that endanger people’s health at its Catawba mill.

New Indy would also pay a civil penalty of $1,100,000.

The proposed Consent Decree was filed on December 30, 2021, and the public comment period ended on March 11, 2022. 

“We value the important relationship we’ve built with the EPA after decades of working together on key environmental issues in our state, and we’ll continue to maintain that essential cooperation in the future, but right now South Carolinians deserve expedient, effective action in regard to New Indy,” DHEC Director Dr. Edward Simmer said. “For too long, residents of North and South Carolina who live near the facility have been enduring undesirable levels of odors that are impacting their quality of lives. It is imperative that a decisive action be taken to end the harm being done to the community.”

DHEC first began receiving complaints from residents in York and Lancaster counties and bordering areas of North Carolina in January of  2021.

The agency said it quickly implemented an investigation with the assistance of EPA that identified New Indy as a significant contributor to the odors and, since then, the agency has taken extensive efforts to require the facility to alter operations and mitigate the odors. These efforts include an Order to Correct Undesirable Levels of Air Contaminants issued by DHEC on May 7, 2021.

This order remains outstanding and will ultimately be replaced by an enforcement order that will assure the sources of the undesirable levels of air contaminants are identified and New Indy reduces its emissions that are impacting the communities.

DHEC officials say it is important that the final EPA Consent Decree and the final DHEC enforcement order include explicit maintenance, operation, and anti-backsliding requirements. DHEC officials say they have investigated potential risks to groundwater and the nearby Catawba River posed by the facility and has not identified any concerns.