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EPA proposes settlement with New Indy to address emissions of hydrogen sulfide from Catawba

Christian Fernsby |
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lodged a proposed consent decree in U.S. District Court in which New Indy Catawba, LLC 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.

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The company will also pay a civil penalty of $1,100,000. The 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.

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.

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 emission limits 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.

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