© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: September 15, 2019; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft before the game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
By Tim McLaughlin
BOSTON (Reuters) – A smelly South Carolina paper mill that has sparked more than 30,000 complaints has become one of the dirtiest pollutants in the United States since it was acquired by an investment group led by Robert Kraft, the billionaire owner of the New England Patriots football team.
Complaints about large releases of hydrogen sulfide, a gas that smells of rotten eggs and causes headaches and even death in concentrated doses, from the New-Indy paper mill in Catawba, South Carolina, they have resulted in federal and state orders to reduce their emissions. . Three federal civil lawsuits have been filed against the company, alleging that the odor harms families.
However, no regulatory action has been taken against the mill to release soot or small particles, at levels higher than factories run by larger rivals and the country’s largest oil refineries.
New-Indy’s most recent battery test in 2020 revealed small particle contamination that peaked at nearly 300 pounds per hour. This hourly rate is up to 50 times higher than other large U.S. paper mills, according to a Reuters review of disclosures to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Compared to, Exxon Mobil (NYSE 🙂 Corp. Baton Rouge Oil Refinery averaged £ 138 per hour during its last available battery test, the highest among U.S. refineries, according to industry test results.
The particle is one of the most harmful pollutants. Formed by particles 50 times smaller than a grain of sand, it can bind to other toxins, infiltrate the bloodstream, and damage the heart, lungs, and nervous system.
New-Indy, in a statement, blamed the high levels of contamination of the paper mill during the 2020 test on problems with the supply of bark fuel to the boiler. The mill’s performance was within federal limits, regulators said.
“New-Indy Catawba is committed to operating its facilities in a safe and responsible manner,” according to the statement.
A joint venture between Schwarz Partners LP and Kraft Group Inc. bought the South Carolina operation for about $ 300 million in 2019 from Montreal-based Resolute Forest (NYSE 🙂 Products Inc.
Kraft is best known as the owner of the National Football League Patriots, winner of six Super Bowl titles. His fortune, coming from paper mills, real estate and entertainment, is estimated at $ 6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
“PRISONERS IN OUR SMELL HOUSE”
Meanwhile, late last year, the plant became the manufacture of cardboard instead of bleached paper products. After the conversion, the buildup of fiber waste in the collection basins likely resulted in high levels of hydrogen sulfide at the plant, according to a New-Indy corrective action plan presented to regulators.
Since March, a hotline created by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) has filed more than 30,000 complaints about the odor.
“I haven’t seen anything like it in twenty years,” said Amy Armstrong, executive director of the South Carolina Environmental Bill (SCELP), on hydrogen sulfide releases.
In May, the EPA issued an emergency order for the New-Indy plant to reduce hydrogen sulfide emissions and install air pollution monitors around the plant.
As one resident said, “We are prisoners in our stinking house,” according to the EPA emergency order report.
During an EPA site visit in April, inspectors recorded hydrogen sulfide levels of up to 15,900 parts per billion. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, respiratory problems, headaches, and nausea can result from prolonged exposure of between 2,000 and 5,000 parts per billion.
COMPARATIVELY HIGH SUTI LEVELS
New-Indy’s largest boiler, which uses wet crust and old tires to provide power for milling operations, produced particles at an average rate of 157 pounds per hour, with a maximum output of 282 pounds per hour, according to the 2020 results presented to the EPA.
During a stack test in 2016, when the plant was run Resolved Forest Products , particle production in the same boiler averaged 100 pounds per hour, or 36% less than the 2020 average rate, according to battery test results.
Paper mills run by Domtar (NYSE 🙂 Corp., International Paper Inc. and WestRock (NYSE 🙂 Co. showed much lower levels of small particle production, according to stack tests reviewed by Reuters.
The International Paper Factory in Ticonderoga, New York, for example, produced just 13 pounds per hour of small particulate pollution, according to a stack test this year.
“We are absolutely concerned about the relatively high levels of New-Indy particles,” said SCELP staff attorney Michael Martinez.
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