South Carolina Property Owners File Pollution Suit Against Paper Company

A group of coastal South Carolina residents claim in a lawsuit that pollution from an International Paper mill has damaged their health and their properties, multiple media outlets reported Saturday.

“International Paper knew, or should have known, that the facility was releasing hazardous substances, particulate matter, and noxious odors into the environment at a level that was unlawful and at a level that could cause injury to persons and property,” states the claim filed by the Bell Legal Group.

The lawsuit, originally filed in federal court late last month, claims the Memphis, Tenn.-based company knew its paper mill in Georgetown was emitting hazardous materials but did nothing. Saying International Paper violated state and federal laws, as well as environmental regulations, the claim also accuses the company of underreporting what it was releasing into the environment and seeks unspecified monetary damages.

According to a news release from the law firm, Georgetown County residents became concerned when “a study using published EPA data, along with accepted air modeling techniques, brought national attention to the poor air quality surrounding several Georgetown schools in 2008.” The firm also claims data from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control showed elevated asthma and cancer rates in Georgetown County.

The lawsuit is proposed as a class-action that could include as plaintiffs anyone who lived within five miles of the facility for at least two years.

An International Paper spokeswoman declined to comment on the allegations but said the company would fight them in court.

“We have a long-standing commitment to the community to operate our facility in a safe and environmentally responsible manner,” Susan McPherson said. “We do not comment on the specifics of pending litigation; however, we will fight the allegations vigorously to uphold our mill’s reputation.”