WASHINGTON (Dec. 29, 2021) —Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lodged a proposed consent decree in U.S. District Court in which New Indy Catawba, LLC (New Indy) has agreed to robust injunctive relief designed to prevent hydrogen sulfide (H2S) concentrations above levels that endanger people’s health from the company’s Catawba, South Carolina paper mill. The company will also pay a civil penalty of $1,100,000. Today’s proposed settlement follows an emergency order issued by EPA on May 13, 2021 to the New Indy Catawba mill to prevent imminent and substantial endangerment to surrounding communities.
“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 long-term improvements designed to ensure cleaner air, which all Americans deserve.”
“Communities near and far from this facility have been experiencing difficult circumstances that have altered their daily lives. This proposed consent decree addresses levels of hydrogen sulfide that have impacted residents along the North Carolina and South Carolina border, and Catawba Indian Nation,” said EPA Region 4 Administrator Daniel Blackman. “This action demonstrates EPA’s continued commitment to take decisive steps to ensure the health and safety of nearby communities.”
Since April 2021, EPA has been aggressively working to identify enforceable measures to minimize facility concentrations that continue to impact communities in North and South Carolina as well as the Catawba Indian Nation. EPA’s Clean Air Act (CAA) Section 303 Emergency Order to New Indy required it to install three H2S monitors at its fence line and prohibited New Indy from emitting H2S above health-based levels from its operations. Working with our state and Tribal partners, EPA is committed to ensuring that the facility operates in a manner that does not jeopardize people’s health and the environment.
Hydrogen sulfide is a flammable, colorless gas that smells like rotten eggs. Exposure to hydrogen sulfide may cause irritation to the eyes, nose, or throat. It may also cause difficulty in breathing for individuals with asthma. Respiratory distress or arrest has been observed in people exposed to very high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide.
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 must 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 must also continue to operate and maintain the H2S fence line monitors and comply with the health-based levels at the fence line. The company must 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.
The lodging of this proposed consent decree represents the next step of EPA’s process to address air concentrations at this facility. The proposed consent decree will be subject to a 30-day comment period. The 30-day comment period will begin on the date a notice of the lodging of the proposed consent decree is published in the Federal Register.
For information and updates on EPA’s activities: H2S in South and North Carolina
For more information about the Clean Air Act Section 303 orders: https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/guidance-use-section-303-clean-air-act-caa
A copy of the proposed consent decree is available on the Department of Justice website at: http://www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html