What’s that smell? DHEC says papermill is to blame for foul odor in SC


LANCASTER CO, S.C. (FOX 46)- After receiving more than 5,000 complaints across Lancaster and York counties, South Carolina officials say they now know what’s causing the funky smell to seep into neighborhoods. They say it’s all due to a paper facility and their outdated water treatment process.

New Indy Containerboard Mill working. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Schawrz Partners LP own the facility where they make and supply recycled cardboard. 

Recently, the mill has been the center of a smelly situation. 

“It smells like fecal matter,” one neighbor told FOX 46. “It comes around very often, three to four times a week maybe.” 

The thousands of complaints filed with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control had people across Lancaster and York counties trying to figure out where it came from.

“People say it came from the paper plant, but that’s on Highway 5. A smell can’t come that far down. It’s from the waste water plant right here.”

After an investigation, DHEC says the smell is definitely coming from New Indy Containerboard. DHEC’s investigation report says the facility recently changed their process from white paper to cardboard. The plant opened in February after it shut down for four months to prepare for the change. 

“It gets into my house and it smells like somebody used the bathroom and didn’t spray anything.”

The manufacturing process uses heat, pressure, and chemicals, to include caustic and sodium sulfide, to pulp the wood chips.  One of the main residuals of the process is total reduced sulfide, which commonly produces a “rotten egg” odor.

“It smells like a combination of sewer and like rotten eggs,” another neighbor told FOX 46.

DHEC showed several pictures in its investigation, saying there have been several changes or modifications to the treatment process that were not approved. 

There also appear to be operational issues with the wastewater treatment process, such as the volume of sludge in the basins and the excessive foam present in the aeration basin.

“I was out here with my girlfriend last night and it just smelled like crap out here and we wanted to be outside and have a fire, but how am I going to have a nice night outside with my girlfriend and it smells like that?” 

The investigation also says that the water treatment process allows for the sludge to be discharged into a holding pond. The waste is pumped from the bottom of that pond to another holding area and then it heads to the Catawba River.

I called New Indy Containerboard to get a statement about the investigation but none of their numbers work. 

FOX 46 reached out to Robert Kraft to get a statement, of course no response there, but they did respond to my email asking for a statement they responded saying, “We do not have any comment at this time.”

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