ROCK HILL, S.C. — Homeowners are criticizing a proposed consent decree reached between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and New Indy Containerboard after regulators accused the paper mill of releasing dangerous levels of hydrogen sulfide into the air.
The York County paper mill, which is part-owned by NFL owner Robert Kraft, will face a $1.1 million fine if the consent decree is approved.
David Hoyle, an attorney with Motley Rice, is one of the attorneys representing homeowners who are suing the paper mill in federal court, and he argued the proposed consent decree is inadequate.
"[It] is analogous to putting a BandAid on a gunshot wound," Hoyle said.
Hoyle said homeowners are concerned about two requirements in the consent decree:
- New Indy must operate their steam stripper at all times during production
- New Indy must maintain monitors that'll track hydrogen sulfide levels coming from the facility.
The steam stripper is a piece of equipment that reduces the number of pollutants released by paper mills.
Hoyle said the EPA should require New Indy to install a new steam stripper, citing a May 2021 email obtained through a record request in which an EPA employee, referring to New Indy, wrote "It may make sense to lead them by the nose to that conclusion. Long term, they will need additional stripper capacity..."
Hoyle also said the hydrogen sulfide monitors cover too small of an area, and the EPA isn't tracking other toxic chemicals he believes the company is releasing into the air.
"It's like taking your fitness tracker and then putting it on a dog and going to your doctor and saying you're getting enough exercise," Hoyle said. "That data may be accurate, but the conclusion that’s being suggested just isn't true."
During the EPA's consent decree public hearing on Tuesday, the agency said it requested additional information from New Indy about other chemicals it's emitting, besides hydrogen sulfide.
New-Indy Containerboard declined to comment ahead of the Tuesday hearing.