The Old Town paper mill has been spewing “noxious odors” into the neighborhood for two years, according to a federal class-action lawsuit. Michele McDonald

Neighbors of a pulp mill in Old Town are raising a stink about a foul, rotten-egg smell they say it’s been releasing – and now some are suing the mill’s owner over the odor.

Walter Demmons and Kirk Ramsay filed a class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Bangor on Oct. 7, seeking an injunction that would require ND Paper LLC to stop the “noxious” emissions. The lawsuit also seeks compensation for damages that are unspecified but would total at least $5 million.

Demmons, a resident of Milford, and Ramsay, of Bradley, both live near the mill, which is on the bank of the Penobscot River at 24 Portland St. in Old Town. There are about 5,900 homes within 2.5 miles of the facility, the complaint states.

In the 15-page document, Demmons and Ramsay say their homes “on frequent, recurrent and intermittent occasions too numerous to list individually continue to be physically invaded by noxious odors.”

Demmons said the odor is so strong it prevents him from opening windows or going for walks. Ramsay, meanwhile, said, “It’s embarrassing to have people in our home, the mill is causing it to smell so bad. We’ve lived here for 36 years and it has never smelled so bad.”

The complaint says Demmons and Ramsay have the right to breathe clean and uncontaminated air and accuses ND Paper of creating a nuisance, trespassing and negligence.


More than 120 other neighbors also have been affected by the smell and reported their experiences to the attorneys representing Demmons and Ramsay, the suit states. It also says environmental officials have “consistently” gotten community complaints regarding a “harsh rotten-egg” smell near the mill.

Since 2020, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection has received a total of 70 complaints related to the odors, said Jeff Crawford, director of the DEP Bureau of Air Quality.

He said the DEP received 13 odor complaints about the mill operation in 2020, 34 odor complaints in 2021, and 23 from January to October this year.

“It all depends on what your definition of consistency means,” Crawford said.


Demmons and Ramsay say ND Paper has “negligently, intentionally, recklessly and willfully” failed to manage and treat the noxious odors created by its pulp manufacturing facilities, primarily in the recovery boiler and lime kiln. Those processes use chemicals that break down wood fibers and produce strong odors, but the emissions can be mitigated through better venting and pressure control mechanisms, the plaintiffs state.


Production also creates a waste sludge that gets treated in an aerated lagoon. “If the lagoon is not properly maintained,” the complaint states, “the waste sludge can produce noxious odor emissions.”

Attempts to reach Demmons and Ramsay were unsuccessful and no response was received from their lawyers: Steven Liddle and Nicholas Coulson, of the Detroit law firm Liddle Sheets Coulson PC, and Christopher Causey and Colin Reilly, from the Sanford firm of Bourque Clegg Causey & Morin LLC.

In response to the inquiries from the Press Herald, ND Paper issued a statement through its attorney, saying, “We cannot comment on pending litigation, other than to firmly assert we believe the claims are baseless and we will vigorously defend our company.”


The company also said it has spent over $200 million to modernize the Old Town facility, including several significant improvements in the past month. But the upgrades have sometimes altered the make-up of the plant’s air emissions and required DEP approval, department records show.

An aerial view of the ND Paper mill in Old Town. Photo courtesy of ND Paper

ND Paper, headquartered in Oak Brook, Illinois, is the U.S. subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Nine Dragons Paper Holdings Ltd., one of the largest paper manufacturers in Asia with $10 billion in reported annual sales. ND Paper acquired the mill in October 2018 for an undisclosed cash price. Previously, the plant had sat idle for three years.


At the time of the purchase, the company’s owner, Ken Lui, promised to create more than 100 jobs in Penobscot County.

In its statement, ND Paper said the Old Town operation has created “nearly 200 high-paying direct jobs, approximately 1,000 indirect and induced jobs, and millions of dollars in local spending on materials and services.”

Maine’s pulp and paper mills numbered more two dozen a century ago, but have struggled over the years to survive competitive and financial pressures. Today, fewer than 10 mills remain.

In September, the owner of a mill in Jay, Pixelle Specialty Solutions, announced it will close the facility in 2023. The mill was damaged by an industrial explosion in 2020.

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