Public Comment Period on EPA’s Proposed Settlement Agreement with New Indy Catawba, LLC Extended
ATLANTA (Feb. 9, 2022) – Today, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) extended the comment period on the proposed consent decree between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and New Indy Catawba, LLC to address hydrogen sulfide (H2S) emissions from the company’s paper mill in Catawba, South Carolina. The comment period, which was set to end on February 9, 2022, was extended by an additional 30 days through March 11, 2022, in response to several requests. The extension follows a recent information session and public hearing held on January 25, 2022, in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
“I recently visited Rock Hill and heard directly from residents about their health and environmental concerns associated with operations at the New Indy Catawba facility,” said EPA Region 4 Administrator Daniel Blackman. “Extending the comment period will give stakeholders more time to provide valuable input on EPA’s proposed consent decree to resolve health risks from hydrogen sulfide. We know the communities have concerns beyond hydrogen sulfide. We are continuing to investigate compliance for other pollutants. We are not going away until we have vigorously pursued compliance with the Clean Air Act.”
On December 29, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lodged the proposed consent decree in U.S. District Court in which New Indy Catawba, LLC agreed to robust injunctive relief designed to keep H2S concentrations from the company’s Catawba, South Carolina paper mill below levels that endanger people’s health. The company also agreed to pay a civil penalty of $1,100,000. The proposed settlement follows an emergency order issued by EPA on May 13, 2021, to New Indy Catawba, LLC to prevent imminent and substantial endangerment to surrounding communities.
H2S is a flammable, colorless gas that smells like rotten eggs. Exposure to H2S 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 H2S. The H2S odor threshold is very low, meaning that an individual will smell the odor associated with H2S at concentrations much lower than concentrations at which health effects are likely to occur.
The proposed settlement requires New Indy Catawba, LLC to operate its 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. The facility 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 Catawba 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 proposed consent decree was originally subject to a 30-day public comment period that has now been extended to 60 days. Comments may be submitted through March 11, 2022. EPA and the DOJ will consider the public comments received and decide whether or not to proceed with entry of the consent decree. Any motion filed by EPA and the DOJ to enter the consent decree will include a response to comments. If entered by the Court, the consent decree will only resolve the EPA’s Section 303 Clean Air Act (CAA) imminent and substantial endangerment action against New Indy Catawba. It specifically reserves EPA’s right to pursue enforcement for other potential violations of law.
The EPA intends to hold New Indy Catawba accountable for any violations of law or other enforceable commitments. The EPA is continuing our investigation and coordinating with our state partners as we work together to investigate potential violations of the CAA and other environmental laws. Most recently, on January 18, 2022, EPA issued a letter to New Indy Catawba under Section 114 of the CAA to request additional information from the company about its compliance with other portions of the law.
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: www.epa.gov/enforcement/guidance-use-section-303-clean-air-act-caa
A copy of the proposed consent decree and instructions for submitting comments are available on the Department of Justice website at: www.justice.gov/enrd/consent-decree/us-v-new-indy-catawba-llc
The federal register notice announcing the extension of the public comment period on the consent decree can be found at: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2022/02/08/2022-02567/notice-of-extension-of-public-comment-period
The CAA Section 114 letter sent on January 18, 2022, may be found at: https://response.epa.gov/sites/15198/files/New%20Indy%20Information%20Request%202022%20Jan%2018.pdf