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What's next after DHEC orders New Indy paper mill to clean up foul odor

South Carolina DHEC logged more than 17,000 complaints in Mecklenburg, Union, York and Lancaster counties.

CATAWBA, S.C. — Despite the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) ordering a York County paper mill to take steps to stop the release of a foul-smelling odor, New Indy Containerboard could delay or challenge the state's order.

DHEC's order, which was released late last Friday, came after the state received more than 17,000 complaints from people in the Carolinas.

In its nine-page order, DHEC said the foul odor is hydrogen sulfide, and it's a direct result of the company changing its processes from making bleached white paper to the brown paper used in delivery packages.

State environmental regulators ordered the company to meet three deadlines on May 17, June 1, and June 15, as part of a process to correct the number of air contaminants released by the mill.

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Alan Bateman lives roughly seven miles northeast of the plant, and he's glad South Carolina issued the order.

"Now that the summer is here, you're not going to be able to open your windows with this smell. It's that bad," Bateman said. "It's like we live right next door to it."

According to the order, when New Indy first got permission to change its paper process nearly two years ago, the company predicted hydrogen sulfide levels would increase, but it claimed the amount wouldn't rise to the "significant net increase" threshold.

New Indy could challenge DHEC's order by filing a request for a final review conference before a May 24, 2021 deadline.

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If the state declines the request or agrees to a conference, but issues a ruling against the company, New Indy could then request a hearing before the Administrative Law Court.

Each step in the appeal process would likely delay the deadlines in DHEC's order.

David Mann has mixed feelings about the smell coming from New Indy.

While he said the smell isn't pleasant, he argued the company has a right to conduct business.

"The mill's [been] here a long time before many of the people that are complaining," Mann said. "So it's hard for me to get too bent out of shape."

New Indy and its parent companies, which include The Kraft Group, owned by NFL New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, hasn't responded to WCNC's repeated requests for an interview.

 Contact Brandon Golder at bgoldner@wcnc.com and follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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