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EPA hears concerns on New Indy’s odor, chemical exposure before deciding plan of action

On Tuesday, the EPA shared its proposal to monitor the problem.
Tensions were high Tuesday night at a meeting in South Carolina with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA.)
Published: Jan. 25, 2022 at 10:58 PM EST
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ROCK HILL, S.C. (WBTV) - Tensions were high Tuesday night at a meeting in South Carolina with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA.)

If you live near the New Indy Paper Mill in Rock Hill, then you know the issues of unpleasant smell, questions about health and quality of life for those nearby.

Tonight, the EPA is in town, proposing how to monitor the problem.

At least 30 people were at the meeting in person and several more joined online. There were tears, raised voices and lots of passion. Some people said the smell is so bad, they’re prisoners in their own homes.

That begged the question: Is the government doing enough to keep this company accountable?

“No, it’s not normal. Not at all,” Rock Hill resident Kerry Bishop says. “Nobody should have to deal with that.”

“I wear it at the first sign of New Indy. That means if my nostrils start stinging, burning, I reach for the gas mask,” Rock Hill resident Betty Rankin added.

Last year, tens of thousands of people living near the New Indy facility complained to the EPA that they were feeling nauseous and getting migraines and burning sensations. There was dread to go outside and worry about their families.

“I get tingling sensations in my face, things like that,” Bishop said. “But other people get nosebleeds, headaches.”

“It makes me ill. When New Indy hits me multiple times a day, my body does not have time to recover.,” Rankin said.

Back in May, the EPA issued an emergency order for the company to fix the odor.

On Tuesday, the EPA shared its proposal to monitor the problem.

They said they’ll keep watch for three years to make sure the plant doesn’t expel certain chemicals like hydrogen sulfide, beyond a certain limit.

After explaining that, they listened.

“If you have information that these measures are not enough or that the health-based concentration is not adequate, if there’s science to support that, please share it with us. Because I want to know,” Carol Kemker, EPA Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Director said.

Several pleaded with the EPA to go further and to test other chemicals, introduce harsher consequences or stop the plant altogether.

”It’s definitely not enough. It doesn’t bring them into compliance,” Bishop said. “There’s no guarantee of compliance, that’s in paragraph 67 of the decree.”

A few speakers said they did not have deep concerns but mostly Tuesday night, it was high emotion and neighbors wanting solutions.

As for New Indy, they declined to comment.

Now that the EPA has listened to public comment, it has to decide whether to adopt that proposal of monitoring for three years or go in a different direction altogether.

“I’m sorry that people had to go through this and I hope that the actions we’re taking give them the needed relief,” Kemker said.

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