A South Carolina paper mill has issued it first public comments in response to government health officials blaming the company for an odor that’s sickened Carolinians for many months.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday ordered New-Indy Containerboard of Catawba, S.C. — which is just southeast of Rock Hill — to immediately lower hydrogen sulfide emissions and monitor the air in communities surrounding the plant.
The EPA also will begin monitoring the air in the greater Rock Hill area and into North Carolina, as requested by various state and local agencies and the Rock Hill-based Catawba Indian Nation, EPA officials said.
Residents in areas along the state line have said the pungent odor has infiltrated their homes, causing headaches and sore throats, according to posts on a Facebook page dedicated to the odor.
In a statement Friday, mill manager Tony Hobson said the plant “strives to be a good member of the community” and saved more than 450 manufacturing jobs and created 1,000 construction jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
New-Indy, he said, continues to try to determine the source of the odor “and resolve the issues relating to the odor emanating from our plant.”
“We are committed to the safety of our 420 local employees and the surrounding area; protecting the environment; promoting economic vitality; and charitable giving to support great local causes,” Hobson said.
New-Indy intends to comply with the EPA order and a similar one previously issued by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control — “In good faith as soon as we are reasonably and safely able,” according to Hobson’s statement.
Since March, Hobson said, New-Indy has taken numerous steps to determine the source of the “reported odors” and control emissions.
Preliminary data from devices the company installed “indicate that our activities are having a positive effect,” Hobson said
Hobson also said the EPA order “references information that differs from our findings to date. This underscores the critical importance of sharing data and working together to an expeditious solution, to which we are fully committed.”
New-Indy has until Tuesday to submit a draft of its plan showing how it’s going to reduce its emissions to federally acceptable levels. A final plan is due by May 24, and the company would have five days to comply with the final plan once the EPA OKs it.
Under the order, New-Indy also must immediately notify the EPA if it exceeds permitted levels and submit daily documentation of its air monitoring data. Weekly summary reports also will be required.
On May 7, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control ordered New-Indy to submit an outdoor air quality monitoring plan.