The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed to fine New-Indy Containerboard $1.1 million over the odor dilemma in South Carolina that for several months generated thousands of complaints against the paper mill in Catawba, South Carolina.
The EPA lodged a proposed consent decree and says New-Indy has agreed to significant relief designed to prevent hydrogen sulfide (H2S) concentrations above levels that endanger people’s health from the mill. New- Indy would pay a civil penalty of $1,100,000.
This comes months after the EPA took legal action and issued an emergency order for New-Indy Containerboard to fix the prolonged odor that plagued multiple counties in South Carolina for more than four months.
The EPA received tens of thousands of complaints about the odors that reportedly sickened neighbors living near the plant. Area residents impacted by the odor and toxic emissions filed to intervene in the EPA’s litigation against New-Indy to put an immediate end to pollution.
According to an EPA press release, the May 13 order was issued to prevent imminent and substantial endangerment to surrounding communities. The proposed consent decree is not final and will be subject to a 30-day comment period, which will begin on the date a notice of the lodging of the proposed consent decree is published in the Federal Register.
“EPA took swift action earlier this year by issuing an emergency order to New-Indy to monitor and reduce hydrogen sulfide air pollution from their Catawba facility,” said Larry Starfield, Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Today’s proposed settlement ensures that surrounding communities will be protected from unlawful pollution from this facility through mandatory improvements designed to ensure cleaner air, which all Americans deserve.”
The proposed settlement requires New-Indy to operate their steam stripper unit to control hazardous air emissions, monitor and treat sulfur-containing fuel condensate sent to the wastewater treatment system, and improve the functioning of the wastewater treatment system.
New-Indy would be required to install and maintain a carbon filtration system on their post-aeration tank to minimize air emissions, and install and maintain a functioning secondary containment system around the by-product black liquor storage area to prevent uncontrolled black liquor releases from reaching the wastewater treatment system.
New Indy would also have to continue to operate and maintain the H2S fence line monitors and comply with the health-based levels at the fence line. The company would be required to apply for and receive federally enforceable permits incorporating these terms and is not eligible to terminate the consent decree until it has completed all injunctive relief and operated for at least three years without any fence line exceedances.