Friends of Perdido Bay
10738 Lillian Highway
Pensacola, FL 32506
Tidings The Newsletter of the Friends of Perdido Bay
April 2004 Volume 17 Number 2 Jackie Lane -Editor
Happy Earth Day
This year Pensacola will be celebrating Earth Day on April 17, 2004 at Bartram Park from 10 until 5. Friends of Perdido Bay will have our table set up with information and displays. While, in some aspects, it appears that commercial interests have taken over Earth Day, it is still nice to have an annual reminder that the earth belongs to everyone, and should not be used by a few to make a profit. The earth and its beauty are here for everyone to enjoy, and should be protected for future generations to enjoy. Usually the weather is Spring-like and beautiful. So come and visit and enjoy the earth. It is free.
No Draft Permit for IP yet
When did we say that we expected Florida to issue a draft permit for IP? Was it February 1995; or maybe September 2003? Well, we are still waiting. Officially, the Florida permit issued to Champion (now IP) expired December 1994. The federal permit issued by the EPA in 1990 was withdrawn in 1994 and replaced with an old permit issued to St Regis (two owners before IP) in 1983! The federal 1983 permit had an expiration date of 1988. 1988 is 15 years ago. In 1995, Florida was granted the authority by EPA to issue both the federal and state permits as one permit. The order combining Champion's federal and state permits (which had expired) into one permit was signed in November, 1995 by the previous DEP district director, Bobby Cooley. However the order expired December 1994. That's right, the order expired before it was issued. If this sounds like a lot of mumbo jumbo and interference by powerful political people, it is. So how can the current owners of the mill operate without a valid permit? We don't know. According to Florida state law, there is a $10,000 daily fine for operating on an expired permit.
The Florida environmental agency, DEP, explains it this way. The paper mill in Cantonment had made a timely application for a new permit in September 1994. Since that "timely" application, the DEP has had one question after another about the impact the paper mill effluent would have on Perdido Bay and has not issued a draft permit. Basically, the paper mill has been allowed to operate while the Florida DEP asks questions about permit issues. The paper mill answers these questions but there are always more questions. And so for 10 years, the permit has been "administratively continued" while DEP tries to resolve permit issues. Funny, before citizens on Perdido Bay got involved, it was so easy to issue these permits to the paper mill. Prior to citizen involvement, the permits were being issued illegally with known violations. The DEP says it was not aware of these violation, but it was. But this will not happen again.
The most recent DEP questions involve the impacts of the effluent on two small fishing lakes - Tee and Wicker lakes. The new idea for a permit involves removing the effluent from Eleven Mile Creek, piping the effluent to a distribution site and then letting it flow overland to Perdido Bay. The area which will receive the greatest impact (about 70% of the flow) of the effluent will be Tee and Wicker lakes. These are open areas in a salt marsh which are very popular for fishing. Not only will these areas be impacted but it looks like these lakes will also be included in a mixing zone for color, and may also be posted off-limits. This would certainly be unpopular.
The DEP is also pondering how they are going to address the "oxygen issue" in Perdido Bay. In the late 1980's and early 1990's, the EPA and a consultant (whom we think was actually fairly honest) did a study to determine how much oxygen consuming material (termed BOD) Perdido Bay could take. It turned out that during times of the year when Perdido Bay was layered with fresh water on top of the deeper salt water (called stratified), Perdido Bay could accept NO oxygen consuming material - either from natural sources or from the paper mill. The oxygen would go to zero in the deeper parts of Perdido Bay which were isolated in the salt layer. Of course, the black ooze on the bottom which was the result of years of dumping partially decayed wood fibers into the bay, only caused oxygen depletion to occur faster. Maybe Florida can use Alabama's solution. Alabama ignores the oxygen levels in water below 6 feet. Alabama does not recognize any water violations in water deeper than 6 feet. This is one way Alabama is able to say that there are no water quality violations in Perdido Bay.
In the mean time, we wait for the DEP to try and issue a permit to IP. But it should be pretty obvious by now, there may be no legal way for a permit to be issued to IP for discharge in Perdido Bay. DEP needs to stop looking for ways to permit discharge into Perdido Bay and start encouraging IP to spray its effluent into its forests north of the mill. If no permit is issued to IP, hopefully they will not spend money upgrading the mill in Cantonment as they did in 1995. If no money is spent to upgrade the mill, it will eventually close. Friends of Perdido does not want to see the mill close, but we don't want this pollution either.
Want to Help?
Friends of Perdido Bay is going to begin a summer program for testing Perdido Bay waters for total and fecal coliform. We have purchased three bacteriological kits to measure total and fecal coliform in water. The kits are easy to use and reliable. We are planing to begin the program in May. Once a week (hopefully on Tuesday), the volunteer will take a sample of water, filter it on a pad, incubate the pad at room temperature for several days and then count the little colored dots (bacterial colonies). The volunteer will then call in the results to us, and we will post the results on our website. We are hoping to find volunteers in the upper (above Grassy Point), middle (from Grassy Point to Lillian Bridge) and lower bay (below Lillian Bridge). The test should take about an hour a week. People who want to find the bacterial count in the bay can check our website. If you are interested in doing this bacteriological testing, call us at 850-453-5488. We will provide kits and instruction.
Another way you can help is by sending contributions to Friends of Perdido Bay. Our dues and memberships are only $10.00 per person. Through memberships and some donations we have been able to put out this newsletter 6-times a year, do some sampling, do some advertizing, and print out some educational material. With more money we can expand our program. We were considering having a speaker come from the Forest Products lab in Wisconsin to talk about the latest developments in "clean papermaking". Friends of Perdido Bay is a not-for-profit corporation and any donations to us are tax deductible. We also wish to thank everyone who is a member and who has donated money.
Visit Our Website at www.friendsofperdidobay.com
Many of you may not know that Friends of Perdido Bay has a website. The website has odds and ends, old newsletters, pictures of pollution and general information. Unfortunately I don't update the website as often as I should. Maybe now that weekly bacterial information is going to be posted, the web site will be updated more often.
Where is Alabama?
For years we had hoped that Alabama would get on the stick and begin protecting one of the few pieces of coastline that it owns. We know that Alabama is very protective of its industries. Its environmental laws and tax laws are geared to attracting and protecting industry. But Alabama has a huge investment in tourism. Just look at Orange Beach and the condos. It is understandable that Florida which has hundreds of miles of beaches doesn't care much if one little bay in northwest Florida is polluted, but Alabama should. In December 2003, our members collected over 700 signatures of people who were opposed to the IP pipeline plan to pipe effluent to a disposal area and then allow the effluent to flow overland to Perdido Bay. We presented these petitions along with a cover letter explaining why we opposed the IP pipeline project to both Baldwin (AL) and Escambia (FL) County Commissions. One or two Baldwin County Commissioners said they didn't like the plan either. The Baldwin County Commission directed their staff to investigate the plan. Several weeks later, IP presented its plan to the Baldwin Commissioners in a workshop. The outcome of the IP pressure: - allow the project to continue. The Baldwin Commission's stance - "if there was any harm once the project was completed, IP would be fined". Once the pipeline project is completed, it is too late. Once millions are spent and the pipeline is built, it will be impossible to correct or stop any pollution caused by the project. The time to stop the project and the gross pollution of Perdido Bay is now.
But maybe Alabama is beginning to realize and protect the investment in recreation. Last summer, at Orange Beach, I saw the opaque brown waves rolling into the beach. Is this enough to get the Ono and Orange Beach people fired up? I hope so. According to Elizabeth Bluemink, a Pensacola News Journal reporter, Bill Pryor, the ex-attorney general of Alabama, is beginning to take an active interest. She also said that David Whetstone is bringing back the investigator who found the violations at the Escambia Landfill to investigate IP's plan. Its about time, Alabama.
Chips from Brazil
When IP presented its pipeline plan to Lillian residents in December 2003 at the Lillian Community Club, they made no secret about the fact that they intended to import Eucalyptus chips from their vast plantations in Brazil. According to an IP spokesman, they are using Eucalyptus chips from Brazil at the present time. In conjunction with the importation of chips, IP is selling thousands of acres of their local forests. But into what port are they going to bring the chips? Pensacola has apparently turned a cold shoulder toward a big chips facility. At one time, the Trillium property downtown was being considered for a chips handling facility. How about Mobile? IP told us it was not cost effective to ship chips to Mobile and bring them over to Pensacola. So where are the chips going to come in? Don't know.
We just finished two books about how the PR industry bends the truth (i.e. lies). Truth to the PR industry is only what they want you to perceive it to be. According to the books, big business believes that corporate power must be protected against democracy. Well, we know what corporate power is and we know what corporate spin is. A favorite method of deluding and controlling the public is through an "independent" third party scientist - a Dr. Livingston. Remember Dr. Livingston's pronouncements that the pollution was not coming from the paper mill but from the Gulf of Mexico. Then, after Champion installed chlorine dioxide as their bleaching agent, we were told they had "cleaned up". But what we saw were massive algae blooms. Then later the death of all seagrasses, clams and most life in the Bay. We were told it was our septic tanks and storm water runoff. Yet, a simple engineering calculation shows that the BOD (oxygen consuming material) that the paper mill puts out is equivalent to more than 100,000 septic tanks discharging directly to Perdido Bay. The claim that stormwater runoff was causing our problems was never shown by any study. In fact, the one independent study on stormwater which was done by DEP and ADEM in 1988 and 1989 and published in 1991 makes as its number one recommendation - "Reduce nutrient loadings from Elevenmile Creek". Interestingly enough Dr. Livingston uses 1988 and 1989 as years when nutrients in Perdido Bay and Elevenmile Creek were good. Dr. Livinston uses these years as baseline for his nutrient recommendations for the paper mill.
Then there were draft studies which some how got buried. An EPA study on the sediments in Gulf Coast estuaries showed that Perdido Bay was ranked number one in area of concern. This study never officially came out and when the authors were called they were still revising data. Mike Brim of the Fish and Wildlife Service's findings that sediments in Perdido Bay were so contaminated it would be classified as a superfund site were squelched quickly. These are among a few examples of corporate power that we have seen. In the next newsletters, we will tell you more.