GLENS FALLS — A problem with Finch Paper’s pulp digester may have had city residents smelling rotten egg fumes Tuesday morning.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation said it investigated reports of odors and determined the Finch Paper mill was the source.
Finch Paper officials told the DEC that its pulp digester has been shut down since Sunday. As a result, it is transferring the liquid contents to its wastewater treatment system and solid contents to open-air bunkers.
The DEC said the open air bunkers are generating the odor, which Finch Paper said was likely ammonium bisulfite. Removal of the material is estimated to be complete by the end of the day Thursday.
“DEC is overseeing the removal of the material the mill identified as the source of the odors to an appropriate receiving facility,” the agency added.
DEC did not have answers late Tuesday afternoon about whether Finch Paper had received any violations, or whether there was an environmental impact.
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The state Department of Health said “symptoms from exposure to odors generally diminish once exposure to the odors has stopped,” and recommended people consult their health care provider if symptoms persist.
Strong odors can cause various health effects including eye, nose, throat or lung irritation, coughing, wheezing, headaches, nausea and mood changes, according to the Health Department’s fact sheet, available at health.ny.gov/publications/6500/index.htm. The fact sheet states that health effects also depend on the type of chemical and length of exposure.
When asked if there were any health concerns about breathing in ammonium bisulfite, the Health Department told The Post-Star it stood by its original statement and fact sheet.
Ammonium bisulfite is used as a bleaching agent for paper pulp and, when decomposed, according to the National Institute of Health, can emit toxic vapors. Inhalation, ingestion or skin contact can cause severe injury or death, the National Institute of Health states, but the institute suggested moving to fresh air, so its effect on people already outdoors was not clear Tuesday.
Finch Paper told The Post-Star that it is in the process of making repairs to the digester and expects to have it back up and running in a few days. The company purchases pulp to make paper when the mill is being repaired, and thus paper production continues as normal, it added.