Two residents who live close to Old Town’s pulp mill are suing the company that owns the facility claiming the stinky odors it produces are invading their properties.
Walter Demmons of Milford and Kirk Ramsay of Bradley filed a lawsuit in federal court earlier this month against ND Paper LLC seeking $5 million in compensation and a stop to the production of “noxious” emissions. The pair are seeking class-action status, claiming that the odors impact thousands of people that live in the area surrounding the mill.
The pair allege that the mill has failed to properly maintain portions of its equipment, which has led to repeated “invasions” of odors onto their properties, according to their complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Bangor on Oct. 7.
The smell coming from the mill has caused property damage, is a nuisance, constitutes trespassing and reflects negligence on the part of mill’s operators, Demmons and Ramsay allege in their complaint.
The mill has been a fixture in Old Town for years. The city, a once-thriving mill town, has struggled economically as the mill has contracted and closed at different points. The facility, located off Portland Avenue on the edge of the city’s limits, reopened in 2019 under ND Paper’s ownership after its previous owner shut it down in 2015.
There are about 5,900 homes within 2½ miles of the mill, and at least 120 neighboring residents have told Demmons and Ramsays’ lawyers that they have been affected by the odors, according to the suit.
Additionally, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection has received at least 50 different complaints from area residents regarding the smells that come from the facility, according to the complaint.
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has received a total of 70 complaints related to the odors since 2020, according to the Portland Press Herald, which first reported on the lawsuit.
Ramsay and Demmons claim that the smell, which they describe as similar to “rotten eggs,” is caused by the process the mill uses to break down wood fibers to make pulp. That process produces a gas that is made up of sulfur and sulfur dioxide, which has a rotten egg-like smell, according to their complaint.
The process produces a sludge that is put into a lagoon before it’s treated and discharged into the Penobscot River. If the mill doesn’t properly maintain the lagoon, it releases “noxious” odors, according to the suit.
The lawsuit doesn’t specify the value of the damages the pair and others in the area have experienced, but Demmons and Ramsay are seeking $5 million in compensation for the odors.
ND has not filed a response to the lawsuit in federal court and declined to comment on the pending litigation.
The company, however, said it is committed to the success of the mill and the community.
ND has invested more than $200 million in the Old Town mill and created at least 200 high-paying jobs directly tied to the facility, ND spokesperson Jay Capron said.
The facility has infused millions of dollars into the local and Maine economy and indirectly created 1,000 other jobs in the area, he said.