CATAWBA, S.C. — A second lawsuit has been filed against the owners of New-Indy Containerboard in Catawba, South Carolina, which has been the subject of tens of thousands of complaints and concerns regarding a foul odor in the area.
Similar to another lawsuit filed against New-Indy last month, this latest complaint, which was filed just before Memorial Day weekend, is seeking class-action status.
Attorneys alleged "The noxious odors substantially and unreasonably interfere with the Plaintiffs’ and Class’ enjoyment of life and the ability to use and enjoy their properties."
The lawsuit is seeking monetary damages, but its attorneys didn't detail a specific amount.
South Carolina's Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have already ordered the plant to lower its hydrogen sulfide levels, which, the agencies said, is causing the odor.
The lawsuits come as Kerri Bishop, the founder of the 2,900-member Facebook group that first brought attention to the odor, told WCNC Charlotte she felt the plant's management wasn't moving fast enough.
"I've been messaging them since probably late-February," Bishop said. 'People are suffering."
Bishop is not a plaintiff in either of the lawsuits.
She said her family can still smell the odor, and she's worried about their health as summer arrives this month.
"Yes, one of them wants to be out there all day," Bishop said, when asked whether her children ask to play outside. "The other one doesn't want to go out with the smell, and my oldest kind of does her own thing, but she has gotten nose bleeds recently."
The group started a new petition calling on the company to update its equipment.
"It's [been] too long," Bishop said about the company's timeline. "I don't feel like they're taking it serious."
In late May, some residents joined a class-action lawsuit filed against the owners of the company, too.
Charlotte-based Gary Mauney is one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs.
He described one of his plaintiffs as a military veteran who has suffered from symptoms like coughing, nausea and burning eyes because of the odor.
"He retired here from the Navy. He came to South Carolina because he wanted to enjoy the rest of his life," Mauney said. "He should've been able to come here as a veteran and enjoy going out in the yard and playing with his grandchildren and doing whatever it is he wants to do, and he can't do that because of the actions of the plant."
Mauney and other attorneys on the case, including Columbia-based attorney Richard Harpootlian, alleged when New-Indy bought the plant, they resorted to cheaper methods for handling its emissions, which led to them releasing higher levels of hydrogen sulfide.
Mauney claimed his clients aren't just smelling pollution, but they're also seeing foam-like substances drift into places like their screened-in porches.
"My clients have been unable to use their property the way that they want to, to enjoy it. It's harmed the value of their property," Mauney said. "They need to be compensated for that damage."
The company has a new website detailing the steps they're taking to fix the situation, which fulfills one of several demands made by state regulators.
Since late-April, New-Indy hasn't accepted WCNC Charlotte's request for an interview.