*Page Updated August 16, 2023
On Nov. 23, 2022, DHEC entered into a Consent Order with New Indy requiring the facility to take additional and significant actions that will fully correct and control undesirable levels in the communities surrounding its Catawba facility. This Consent Order amends the Order to Correct Undesirable Levels that DHEC issued on May 7, 2021, and is in addition to the federal requirements of the EPA's recently-approved Consent Decree with New Indy.
The Consent Decree between EPA and New Indy was approved by the United States District Court on November 16, 2022. This agreement brings to a close the Emergency Order issued by EPA to New Indy on May 12, 2021 under the authority of the Clean Air Act.
The Consent Decree addresses the contents of the EPA Order. The DHEC Order issued to Correct Undesirable Levels under the authority of the SC Pollution Control Act remains in effect.
*On August 21, 2023, DHEC will begin using our Report It! system instead of the New Indy Odor Investigation Form to receive environmental reports from the public related to New Indy. The Report It! system relays comments from the public to our local offices, and staff will continue to address these reports as quickly as possible.
The investigation into undesirable levels of odors surrounding New Indy has resulted in several actions, and New Indy has been required to perform extensive measures that have improved conditions in the surrounding communities. Orders remain in effect that require New Indy to take ongoing measures. Changes to the control technology are expected to continue the progress that’s been made in reducing the occurrence of odors outside the facility.
DHEC encourages South Carolina residents to use the agency’s Report It! system for submitting environmental or health concerns. Odor information and concerns about New Indy also should continue to be sent directly to the facility at newindycatawba.com.
Those experiencing New Indy odor in North Carolina should also report concerns directly to the facility at newindycatawba.com. Other concerns about local odor can be reported to North Carolina air quality agencies for investigation:
- Mecklenburg County Air Quality (Charlotte, Pineville, and other areas in Mecklenburg County)
- NC DEQ Regional Office in Mooresville (Marvin, Waxhaw, and other areas in Union County)
*Odor Reports Map
Many variables affect the number of odor reports during a time period. The main variable is wind direction and whether or not people are upwind or downwind from New Indy.
We have used citizen reports that include time and place along with local wind speed and direction data to follow air parcels back in time to recreate the path that air has taken. Called back trajectories, and modeled by our meteorologists during a range of conditions, they help identify where parcels of air have been and the potential sources along those paths. Many of the back trajectories that have been modeled indicated that air associated with odor reports previously passed over or near the New Indy plant.
As part of DHEC’s investigation, we evaluated permitted facilities in the area, including the New Indy Containerboard facility and nearby wastewater treatment plants, which also have a distinctive odor. The reports that describe the results of these inspections are provided here.
- Catawba River New Indy Water Special Study
- Order to correct undesirable level of air contaminants issued to New Indy
- New Indy's Response to DHEC Request for Information
- New Indy NPDES Compliance Inspection
- DHEC Back Trajectory Summary Report
- DHEC Lancaster and York County Odor Investigation Report
- New Indy Solid Waste Landfill Inspection Form
- New Indy Air Quality Inspection Report
- New Indy Stripper Restart Approval
DHEC worked with state, local, tribal, and federal partners to investigate the odors. North Carolina DEQ indicated to South Carolina DHEC that they investigated their wastewater treatment plants in North Carolina and did not find issues believed to contribute to the odors.
To assist in the investigation and ongoing response, DHEC requested resource assistance from the US EPA:
- to bring in pulp and paper mill process experts to assist in joint DHEC and EPA inspections; and
- to bring in advanced technology to measure air quality in surrounding communities where odors have been reported
On May 13, 2021, EPA issued an Order to address the endangerment posed by the air emissions of hydrogen sulfide.
Odors from Sulfur Containing Compounds at Regulated Sources
Sulfur odors come largely from decaying organic matter - especially when decaying organic materials are concentrated in one area like a wastewater treatment plant, land application of organic fertilizer and certain industries like pulp and paper mills. The pulp and paper industry is known for its distinctive smell. This smell comes from the decay of wood, which releases naturally occurring sulfur compounds, as well as a sulfur-containing chemicals used in the pulping process.
Sulfur-containing chemicals are often detected by the human sense of smell in very low concentrations and have an unpleasant odor, sometimes similar to rotten eggs. These chemicals can be smelled at concentrations much lower than those associated with being harmful to health. Odors of any type can trigger symptoms such as headaches and nausea, and the sense of smell is subjective to each individual. There are no state or federal odor regulations applicable to South Carolina.
Weather patterns may also influence the detection of odors. DHEC typically receives odor complaints during changes of seasons, during temperature inversions, and when wind comes from atypical directions. Meteorologists of both South Carolina and North Carolina have confirmed temperature inversions have recently occurred in the area.
Methyl mercaptan, a sulfur containing compound, is added to natural gas as an odorant so that leaks can be detected. If your home has gas appliances or gas heating or gas fireplaces and you smell gas inside your home that is not also outside of your home, you should leave the home and call the gas company or 9-1-1.
DHEC takes odor concerns very seriously and remains committed to providing information to those affected by these odors. Community members and their observations are valuable assets in our investigation. Data from citizen odor reports has been and will continue to be used to inform the investigation.
DHEC provided a form for community members to contribute details of their odor observations to assist in our initial investigation but encourages community members impacted by odor to make reports directly to New Indy. Observers in North Carolina are also encouraged to provide reports to the local environmental protection agency that has jurisdiction in their area.
- Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry: Are Environmental Odors Toxic?
- Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry: ToxFAQTM for Hydrogen Sulfide
DHEC and local partners continue to work to resolve this concern. Please check this webpage frequently as it will be updated as additional information about the odor investigation becomes available.