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EPA holding public hearing on proposed settlement with the South Carolina New Indy paper mill

The New Indy Containerboard paper mill in Catawba, South Carolina.
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The New Indy Containerboard paper mill in Catawba, South Carolina.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is giving people a chance to weigh in at a public hearing Tuesday night on a proposed settlement with the New Indy paper mill in Catawba, South Carolina.

The deal would require New Indy Catawba LLC to pay a $1.1 million fine, cut emissions and monitor air quality. It also requires the mill to improve its wastewater treatment system.

The New Indy paper mill sits on the Catawba River near the North Carolina-South Carolina border. A rotten egg smell around the mill has generated more than 17,000 complaints over the past year.

Environmental lawyer Chase Brockstedt’s law firm is one of the court-appointed interim co-lead counsel that has filed a class action suit against New Indy. The settlement doesn’t do enough to end the plant’s environmental impact, Brockstedt said.

“It’s a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound,” Brockstedt said. “And really, Washington directing the EPA to check a box without really getting into the meat of the problem.”

Along with the lawsuit filed by Brockstedt’s firm, neighbors of the mill have filed three federal lawsuits claiming the rotten egg smell began when the plant switched from making bleached paper to brown paper containerboard.

New Indy says it has been adjusting its process and its on-site monitors have not detected any excessive hydrogen sulfide since September. The mill’s manager said in an earlier statement that it will fully comply with the agreement.

Schwarz Partners of Indiana and Kraft Group of Massachusetts, controlled by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, own New Indy.

Brockstedt says his firm doesn’t want to put the paper mill out of business, he just wants it to operate in compliance with environmental regulations.

Tuesday’s public hearing starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Rock Hill Sports and Events Center, 326 Technology Center Way, Rock Hill, S.C 29730.

Space will be capped at 150 people.

It can also be attended virtually by registering for the meeting on Zoom.

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Catherine Welch is Assistant News Director at WFAE. She has led newsrooms at KUNC in Greely, CO, Rhode Island Public Radio in Providence, RI and WHQR in Wilmington, NC.