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Canton mill receives new water quality violation

After 115 years in operation, the paper mill in Canton shut down this year.  Jeffrey Delannoy photo After 115 years in operation, the paper mill in Canton shut down this year. Jeffrey Delannoy photo

Evergreen Packaging is no longer making paper in Canton, but it’s still receiving environmental violations. A new notice issued Thursday, Oct. 26, brings the mill to 17 since May 2021. 

The new violation, issued by the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Water Resources, is based on a report monitoring the mill’s wastewater discharge during the month of August. The report showed that on Aug. 30, fecal coliform concentrations in the mill’s effluent were 50% higher than state standards.

The findings echo those found in a notice of violation issued Dec. 1, 2022, which cited high fecal coliform levels on April 5 of that year — also 50% over the limit. The DEQ levied penalties totaling $637.32 as a result of that violation.

The 2022 violation was related to issues with the process the Town of Canton uses to pretreat its waste before sending it on to the mill’s wastewater treatment plant. The violation prompted the town to start constructing infrastructure improvements to address the problem. An update on that project was not available as of press time.

Fecal coliform is a group of bacteria that includes disease-causing species such as E.coli. While most coliform bacteria do not cause disease, some strains of E.coli cause serious illness. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, swimming, diving or wading in water contaminated with fecal bacteria can result in diarrhea, vomiting, respiratory illness and other health problems. Skin, ear, eye, sinus and wound infections can also be caused by contact with contaminated water.

Pactiv Evergreen quit making paper in May, but it continues to treat the Town of Canton’s wastewater on site, in compliance with a 1960s-era agreement that requires the mill to provide wastewater treatment for at least two years after closure.

Pactiv Evergreen did not return a request for comment.

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