JoAnn Carroll lives in South Carolina, but she’s been self-evacuated to her condo in Florida for the last few months as she waits for the air in and around her home to become cleaner and more breathable.
When JoAnn and her husband first left for the condo in January, she says there was no issue. But when they returned in April, JoAnn could barely breathe the air near their home. The hydrogen sulfide emissions from the nearby New-Indy Containerboard’s Catawba plant was simply too strong.
“The first day, there was a slight odor. I had a slight irritation in my throat and a little laryngitis,” says JoAnn. But within just a few days, it had gotten far worse, causing JoAnn’s ears and throat to burn.
“It was so bad that I couldn’t even speak,” JoAnn says. “My husband said, ‘This is insane.’ We packed up the car, and we left.”
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On their way back to Florida, their navigation app took them directly past the New-Indy plant.
“It never took us that way ever [before],” JoAnn says. “I started choking and gagging in my car.”
Luckily for JoAnn and her husband, they were able to escape to their condo in Florida until things get better. Their neighbors, however, haven’t been so fortunate. JoAnn believes scores of people in her neighborhood are suffering health issues related to the incident like she did.
And things aren’t all butterflies and rainbows for JoAnn and her husband either. They’re lucky to own two homes, but the inability to live in one of them is certainly a drag. For two months, they’ve been waiting for something to happen, and nothing has.
“It’s very sad because we’re paying taxes, and we’re paying [homeowners’ association] fees, and I can’t use my home,” JoAnn says.
The plant has had thousands of complaints and multiple lawsuits filed against it, and it is now under federal and state orders to clean up its emissions. However, it appears that nothing substantial has been done yet. JoAnn says she believes her neighbors are suffering substantially from the company’s irresponsible behavior.
As a breast cancer survivor, JoAnn is particularly vulnerable to environmental contaminants and is careful to avoid them so as to protect her health. She hopes her story can help put extra pressure on the owners of New-Indy to make changes to their manufacturing processes.
“I have no intention of letting New-Indy kill me,” she says.
In the meantime, however, she has an encouraging message for her neighbors, who, she believes, are going through undue stress, frustration, and discomfort, as well as potential health issues.
“You need to hold tight and be strong and don’t back down,” JoAnn says. “I’m not even there, and I’m not backing down.”
We hope that changes are enforced soon so that JoAnn can move back home to a healthier environment and so that her neighbors can stop enduring these noxious fumes day in and day out. No one deserves to go through this type of mental and physical suffering because of a company’s irresponsible behavior. Learn more in the video below.