Bell Legal Group Files Suit Against International Paper (IP)


Georgetown, SC, July 31, 2009 – The Bell Legal Group filed suit Friday, July 31, against International Paper (IP) in a Federal Court in Charleston, S.C. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of concerned citizens of Georgetown, alleges that IP, a pulp and paper manufacturing company located in Georgetown, has “continuously and for years” released hazardous substances and toxic waste into the air, land and water, which have caused serious health effects on both humans and animals. It further states that IP knowingly suppressed facts pertaining to the extent of their release, and in doing so, they willfully neglected to inform citizens that their emissions could cause, promote, and accelerate cancer, cause birth defects, and cause other serious, disabling, and life-threatening diseases and health conditions.

Mounting concern over ongoing toxic emissions, water contamination, and noxious odor pollution, coupled with a wave of recently published negative health statistics, triggered Georgetown citizens to question the safety of the facility’s operating practices and to demand accountability for environmental abuse. The public outcry began 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. That sparked numerous reports by local media sources, spotlighting South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) data showing elevated asthma and cancer rates in Georgetown County. Residents believe that International Paper’s willful disregard for the local community, as evidenced through the continuous dumping of hazardous substances into the environment, substantially added to these alarming statistics.

“The statistics can’t be ignored,” said Ryan Heiskell, an attorney for the Bell Group, “and the people of this community are asking IP to step up and take responsibility.”

Attorneys representing the Bell Legal Group traveled to International Paper headquarters in Memphis, TN last February to discuss public concerns about the 73-year-old plant’s contribution to the toxic contamination in Georgetown; however, the parties were unable to come to any agreement at that meeting.

“We were hoping that a trip to company headquarters would open the door for some type of dialogue that could serve as a starting point for cleanup efforts, or at the very least, encourage IP to initiate plans that would begin the process of safeguarding our community from further health and pollution problems. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen,” said Heiskell.

The complaint demands that International Paper cease to emit any further release of hazardous substances into the atmosphere, conduct an investigation to determine the amount of contamination present in all homes and property located in the Georgetown community, and remove all traces of the hazardous substances found.