More than 200 acres of scattered tracts along the meandering Pigeon River Valley in Haywood County are quiet sentries to the not-so-pretty past of Canton’s century-old paper mill.
Mountains of toxin-laced sludge and coal ash are buried in vast industrial dumps on the outskirts of town, hidden relics of the mill’s long papermaking presence here. The old unlined landfills leapfrog along a 2-mile section of the Pigeon River downstream of the mill.
The dangers of coal ash have taken center stage in North Carolina in the wake of the Dan River disaster, when a breach in a faulty Duke Energy coal ash pond near Eden unleashed a toxic slurry downstream.
By Avram Friedman
Last year Becky Johnson of The Smoky Mountain News interviewed me about Evergreen Packaging’s plans to convert their electrical power plant from being fueled by coal to natural gas. This transformation was being touted as an advancement that would greatly improve regional air quality as it decreased operating costs due to currently less expensive natural gas. Further incentive was the promise that state government funds, about $12 million, would be made available to subsidize the renovation.
In a last-minute turnaround, North Carolina lawmakers wrapped up their short session last week with passage of a bill granting Evergreen Packaging’s paper mill in Canton $12 million for natural gas upgrades.
A bill that would provide a $12 million incentive package to the Evergreen Packaging paper mill in Canton failed to garner enough votes from the state House.
“I did my best — that’s all I can say,” said Rep. Michelle Presnell, R-Haywood, on Tuesday afternoon.
Negotiations between Evergreen Packaging and its union employees at the company’s Canton and Waynesville facilities are still ongoing. The talks resume July 15.
Evergreen Packaging paper mill in Canton could get $12 million in state assistance to offset the cost of converting from coal to natural gas, if a proposal pending in the General Assembly goes through.
Union employees at Evergreen Packaging’s Canton and Waynesville factories are currently engaged in contract negotiations.
Evergreen Packaging paper mill in Canton is embarking on a $50 million natural gas conversion of its coal-fired boilers to comply with new federal air pollution limits.
Evergreen Packaging’s Canton paper mill will be writing some big checks over the coming years as it moves to comply with an Environmental Protection Agency rule 10 years in the making.
It’s been more than a decade since the EPA first proposed stricter limits for toxic pollutant emissions from boilers, but once it released the final regulation in December 2012, companies nationwide began gearing up for the expensive upgrades necessary to comply. Evergreen is among them.