According to a local report in The State (SC), a South Carolina congressman is urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to stop the odors that have made life difficult for thousands of people who live on both sides of the state line near Charlotte, North Carolina. 

U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, a Republican whose 5th District includes York County, told the EPA in a letter that the agency should “pick up the pace” to complete an enforcement action against the New Indy paper mill in Catawba, South Carolina. The EPA took enforcement action against New-Indy late last year, proposing a $1.1 million fine and telling the New-Indy to resolve the issue after nearly a year of citizen complaints about odors.

But the enforcement action must be approved by a federal judge, and that hasn’t happened because the EPA has not provided all the information necessary for the judge to sign off on the deal, say attorneys for residents suing New-Indy. The delay has slowed a state enforcement case in South Carolina, in addition to hampering a permanent solution to the odor problem, critics say. “I urge the EPA to use all the tools at their disposal to expedite the process of achieving permanent action to mitigate odor issues stemming from operations at the New-Indy container board facility in Catawba,’’ Norman’s letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan said. Norman’s letter asked Regan to increase staffing to review some 600 public comments that have been submitted about the proposed enforcement case, which will help ultimately “achieve relief’’ for people living near the paper mill. The volume of the comments has contributed to a delay in resolving the matter, Norman’s letter said. The EPA’s proposed enforcement action can’t be finalized until the environmental agency and the U.S. Justice Department review the comments and decide what to tell the court, the letter said. 

In a statement, New-Indy said it had made substantial strides in reducing hydrogen sulfide pollution and had been in touch with Norman’s office. “Congressman Norman and his staff have visited the mill several times and we have kept them regularly updated on our progress on odor remediation efforts,’’ the statement said. “Hydrogen sulfide emissions from the facility have been negligible or zero for many months due to upgrades and improvements New-Indy Catawba has made. New-Indy Catawba will continue to cooperate with the federal and state authorities. We strive to be a good neighbor, desirable employer and major economic driver for the region.’’

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