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'I don't want the thing to drag on' | Congressman pushes for faster review of New Indy comments submitted to EPA

Rep. Ralph Norman is calling on the EPA to expedite its review of more than 600 public comments about a permanent solution to the papermill's foul odor.

CATAWBA, S.C. — United States Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) is calling on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to expedite its review of more than 600 public comments about a permanent solution to the odor coming from the New-Indy Containerboard papermill in Catawba, South Carolina.

"I don't want the thing to drag on," Norman said in an interview with WCNC Charlotte's Indira Eskieva Wednesday. "Nothing is going to change unless we get the comments reviewed." 

In a blog post on his website, Norman wrote Tuesday that he sent a letter to the EPA requesting additional personnel to review hundreds of public comments about the proposed consent decree between New-Indy and the EPA. 

RELATED: A $1.1 million consent decree between the EPA and New Indy is proposed. The idea is being slammed

"The sheer volume of public comments should be a clear indication of how big of an issue this is for everyone in this region," Norman wrote. "However, that should not get in the way of an expeditious review."

The comments are in response to a proposed consent decree to fine New Indy $1.1 million dollars and have the paper plant change some of its manufacturing practices. Attorneys involved in a lawsuit told WCNC Charlotte the proposed consent decree doesn’t go far enough.

“We gave it to our experts and said, 'Listen, you all know what's happening at this plant. Does this fix the problem?' And what they came back to us and said was this consent decree solves less than 10% of the problem," Chase T. Brockstedt, one of the attorneys representing residents, said.

Brockstedt said residents are now asking a judge to allow their attorneys to intervene in discussions between New Indy and the EPA, and reach a solution that would satisfy more people.

In order to get to that point, Brockstedt says the public comments need to be reviewed sooner rather than later.

RELATED: Attorneys frustrated with delay in EPA's delivery of New-Indy documents

“We don't believe that EPA has a handle on the problem, and therefore their proposed solution is incomplete in our view and the view of our technical experts and our engineers," Brockstedt said.

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In March, the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) pushed the EPA to take strong action against the company, proposing a $1.1 million penalty. Residents in York County and surrounding communities have been complaining about the foul odor coming from the plant since early 2021. 

The EPA issued the Clean Air Section 303 Emergency Order to New-Indy last May, requiring the company to install hydrogen sulfide monitors and prohibiting New-Indy from emitting hydrogen sulfide above health-based levels from its operations. 

Contact Indira Eskieva at ieskieva@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Flashpoint is a weekly in-depth look at politics in Charlotte, North Carolina, South Carolina, and beyond with host Ben Thompson. Listen to the podcast weekly.
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