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Environmental agencies slam New-Indy plant in Catawba, claim new environmental violations

The new allegations come as New-Indy Containerboard remains under federal and state orders to reduce hydrogen sulfide emissions at its Catawba mill.

CATAWBA, S.C. — The U.S. EPA and South Carolina DHEC accused New-Indy Containerboard of new violations to the Clean Air Act and the state Pollution Control Act, including violations related to the South Carolina paper mill's ongoing required reduction of its hydrogen sulfide emissions.

The mill is part-owned by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, whose team faced the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. 

Homeowners staged a protest outside Bank of America Stadium ahead of the game. 

"The smell is just awful," Kerri Bishop, a protester, said. "It comes into our home. It is giving our children nose bleeds and all sorts of allergies, headaches and health issues. It's been almost 10 months. We just need it to stop." 

Since spring, WCNC Charlotte repeatedly asked for interview with New-Indy leaders, but they have declined. 

After the game on Sunday, as Kraft's motorcade was heading to his plane, WCNC Charlotte stood along the road with a sign asking the Patriots' owner for an interview.

According to documents WCNC Charlotte first obtained earlier this week, DHEC demanded an enforcement conference on September 30 after they accused the company of violations related to the Pollution Control Act and Water Pollution Control Permits.

Among its allegations, DHEC said New-Indy company failed to update its odor abatement plan, and it transported and stored sludge without properly dewatering it.

During an August visit, DHEC staff members said company workers told them they finished removing solids from the aeration stabilization basin, which regulators pinpointed as the source of the mill's emissions.

However, DHEC said they still found "vegetated islands of accumulated sludge" in the basin, and they alleged they saw workers adding hydrogen peroxide to the basin by using an unapproved method.

In October, the EPA said New-Indy violated the federal order that's governing the mill’s ongoing clean-up. 

RELATED: SC lawmakers tour New-Indy papermill after complaints of 'hydrogen sulfide odor'

As part of that order, New-Indy's required to operate devices that monitor how much hydrogen sulfide the mill emitted, but the EPA cited several instances where they argued New-Indy's data didn't meet federal guidelines.

South Carolina Senator Michael Johnson (R-16) said he continued to have concerns about New-Indy's progress.

"I need them to take it seriously, and I need them to move at a faster rate than they currently are," Sen. Johnson said. "That's the bottom line."

He urged homeowners to keep reporting odor complaints.

Click here for more stories about New-Indy from WCNC Charlotte

“We’ve seen dips in the complaints. I mean some of that is just fatigue," Sen. Johnson said. "We have to all stay united until it's fixed."

WCNC Charlotte first asked New-Indy Containerboard for comment about regulators' allegations on Thursday, but a spokesman said the company couldn't meet a Friday night deadline.

Contact Brandon Golder at bgoldner@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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