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Residents file motion to intervene in EPA litigation against New Indy, put immediate end to pollution

Area residents impacted by the stench and toxic emissions released by the New Indy paper mill are seeking accountability from the plant
Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 3:30 PM EDT
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CATAWBA, S.C. (WBTV) - Area residents impacted by the stench and toxic emissions released by the New Indy paper mill are seeking accountability from the plant.

On Wednesday, those residents filed to intervene in the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) litigation against the company.

The motion was filed before Judge Sherri A. Lydon in federal court in the District of South Carolina, Rock Hill Division, and if granted, residents will ask the Court to require New Indy to immediately take all measures necessary to eliminate its dangerous air emissions and comply with the Clean Air Act and EPA’s outstanding order.

The motion, filed by area residents’ counsel, states that the monitoring program the EPA is requiring New Indy to implement is not adequately protected in many ways, including:

  • the failure to monitor the three other reduced sulfur compounds besides hydrogen sulfide, which make up as much or more than 90% of New Indy’s emissions;
  • only requiring three fence-line monitors when the Facility has a fence-line of over six miles in length;
  • only covering with community monitoring 30 square miles of the affected area that is at least 265 square miles and up to almost 500 square miles;
  • and using inconsistent monitoring methodology and equipment.

The residents also call into question the use of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) Minimum Risk Level (MRL) for hydrogen sulfide, stating it is “inappropriate for the population affected by New Indy’s emissions” and the risk level of 70 parts per billion is “not a ‘safe level.”

Related coverage:

EPA investigating emissions increase caused by ‘black liquor’ overflow at New Indy facility in South Carolina

EPA issues emergency order for New Indy Containerboard to fix odor in S.C., New Indy responds

People affected by New Indy Containerboard are ‘fighting back’ with different efforts

S.C. lawmakers scheduled to visit New Indy facility

Additionally, the filing states that New Indy has continued to violate emissions standards in the Clean Air Act even after the EPA’s issuance of an Emergency Order on May 13, 2021. The EPA issued the order after it found that New Indy’s actions were harmful to public health and welfare and since then, has stated the mill’s efforts to comply with the Emergency Order had been “temporary, speculative, or inadequate,” ultimately resulting in the company failing to comply. The residents also claim that New Indy proposed and constructed a major modification to a stationary source of pollutants without a required Clean Air Act Prevention of Significant Deterioration (“PSD”) permit.

The residents’ complaint requests that New Indy comply with the EPA Order, immediately reduce its wrongful and damaging emissions by curtailing or ceasing production, apply for and obtain a PSD permit, and conduct proper monitoring. As stated in the filing, “Denying intervention will impair Intervenors’ interest in protecting themselves from the adverse health and welfare effects of New Indy’s ongoing air pollution.” The motion also requests the Court lift a stay of the lawsuit prior to the October 31, 2021 date jointly requested by EPA and New Indy.

“This community cannot continue to wait for New Indy to do the right thing. With this filing, we aim to force New Indy to immediately end the dangerous air emissions and comply with federal law,” said Philip C. Federico, founding partner of Maryland-based Schochor, Federico and Staton, P.A. “As we continue to pursue justice on their behalf, we respectfully request the Court to grant this motion to protect the health, safety, and welfare of tens of thousands of area families.”

“The EPA has acknowledged that emissions emanating from New Indy are toxic and detrimental to surrounding communities, but the emissions continue, needlessly putting tens of thousands of families in harm’s way,” said Motley Rice environmental attorney T. David Hoyle. “Our clients have no choice but to seek the Court’s intervention. Ideally New Indy would willingly implement the measures specified by our experts in the complaint in intervention, but we are prepared to fight for the safety of impacted families and to hold New Indy accountable.”

“After months of dealing with the effects of New Indy’s pollution, our clients need action now,” said Chase T. Brockstedt, founding partner of Delaware-based Baird Mandalas Brockstedt, LLC. “By continuing to ramp up production without adequate wastewater treatment facilities, New Indy has proven it cares more about its bottom line than this community, so they must be forced to alter or end production until they can fully comply with all applicable laws, regulations, and industry standards.”

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