Friends of Perdido Bay
10738 Lillian Highway
Pensacola, FL 32506
Tidings The Newsletter of the Friends of Perdido Bay
December 2004 Volume 17 Number 6 Jackie Lane -Editor
Thank you for your support this year
This has been a year of mixed blessings. Many people have sent in donations and renewed their memberships. But then there was Hurricane Ivan and some of our people had severe damage to their homes. We know that there is plenty of support for our fight against the IP plan to pipe the effluent to land surrounding Perdido Bay and increase the amount of wastewater coming into Perdido Bay. We certainly intend to continue the fight next year. Stay tuned and please continue your support of Friends of Perdido Bay.
The Perdido Key Beach Mouse Survived the Storm
Nature is very resilient. Recently, National Park biologists have seen tracks of the Perdido Key Beach mouse after Hurricane Ivan. The biologists expect the beach mice numbers to be down from pre-hurricane numbers but there are still a few left in the maritime stands of pine and holly on the northern part of Johnson's Beach. The biologists are doing supplemental feeding of the mice as the foods of the mice, seeds and insects, are in short supply. This mouse is an endangered species.
What's next on the draft permit?
The formal hearing on the draft permit was held October 13th. Several people tried to get the DEP to postpone the meeting since so many of the people that will be affected by issuance of the permit were impacted by Hurricane Ivan. Also at the last moment (one week before), DEP changed the meeting place from Pensacola High School to the University of West Florida, a much longer trip for many people. We sent out first class letters to all our local members trying to inform them of the change in location. Friends of Perdido Bay was represented at the hearing. During the two hour period before the formal hearing, we set up a display board and passed out "our" fact sheet about the draft permit (see it on our website - www.friendsofperdidobay.com). We also talked to many people about our opposition to the draft permit. One person in particular who seemed to be dismayed at our opposition to the draft permit, was Representative Jeff Miller's local representative. As it turned out, the hearing was an IP "show" with local politicians and IP employees and contractors speaking in favor of the project. There were very few comments made from either side about conditions in the draft permit.
Public comments about the draft permit could be submitted until November 19th. Several Friends of Perdido Bay members submitted comments as people copied us on their letters. Thank you. Our comments were fairly technical and we are still trying to study and digest the lengthy permit and related documents. Our comments are on the website (www.friendsofperdidobay.com).
According to a DEP spokesperson, the agency will look at the comments and try and decide if the permit is defensible. You would think that DEP would have done this before they issued the draft permit. If DEP personnel think the draft permit is defensible, they will then issue a formal permit. If DEP thinks that the permit is not defensible, they may alter the permit and then go to another public meeting. Once DEP has decided to issue the formal permit, they will publish a "Notice of Intent". People have 15 days from the date of the "Notice of Intent" to ask for an Administrative Hearing. DEP has told us that they will not issue any "Notice" until, at least, the first of the year. An Administrative Hearing is a formal court hearing held before one of the states administrative judges, not a Circuit Court judge. The date of the administrative hearing will depend on how long the attorneys think it will take to prepare for trial. My guess is that it will take at least six months or more to prepare for the hearing. There is a substantial amount of discovery which must occur prior to the hearing.
Friends of Perdido Bay is going to fight this terrible permit and the Perdido Bay Foundation has pledged $50,000 to fight the permit in Court. Remember, The Foundation collected this money from donations of class-action settlement money. If IP is allowed to get this permit, chances are the paper mill will be in our bay for the next 40 years. The permit which DEP is trying to issue allows IP to have higher limits than the old permit and allows IP to "legally" violate state standards for the next nine years. By the way, do you know what fines IP will be assessed if they do violate any other standards for which they have no variance? $500. This amount is barely a drop in the bucket. Hardly a deterrence. At this rate it is much easier to pay the fine and keep right on polluting. But more important, we do not think that this permit is defensible and in our letters to DEP we have given them the science and studies to show that this permit is not defensible.
Quiet and Dark
For about a week after Hurricane Ivan, before everyones' generators started whirring, it was really quiet and dark at night. In a way, it was nice. No noise from refrigerators, computers. Since there was no air conditioning, we went outside at night. Without the lights from the city (at least Pensacola) the night sky was dark and stars were visible. Real darkness is beautiful and is something which we are missing because of our modern ways. While I am not suggesting we go back to no electricity (heaven forbid), I am suggesting we temper the glare. One of our members called to bring to my attention that there are groups fighting light pollution and that now would be a great time to do something about light pollution in this area. Many of you probably lost your dock during the storm. Many people put lights at the ends of the dock to attract fish at night. Fine. But as you rebuild your dock and place a new light on the end, you can buy a sky friendly light or install a shield on your dock light. One such light is called the GlareBuster which costs $79.95 (phone 800-548-8714 or www.theglarebuster.com). The group, the International Dark-Sky Association (website: www.darksky.org) has a lot of products and suggestions on how to protect the darkness. They even have an ordinance for governments to adopt to protect the sky. And now all we need is clean air without smog and haze.
We need more action and fewer studies
Have you ever noticed that when government officials want to delay making a decision or diffuse a hard decision, they always suggest a study. Recently I had a government official suggest that a study ought to be made on Perdido Bay, since we haven't had a study for several years. Getting the money for a study always makes the public think that the government is interested in finding the truth when in fact, the intent is to delay the truth, if the truth ever comes out at all. In this and future issues of Tidings, we are going to review the studies (of which we are aware) that have been done on Perdido Bay and look at the actions that have been taken on these studies. We will only cover one study in this newsletter due to space (maybe attention) limitations. The paper mill has been studying the bay for years. As part of their permit, starting in the 1970's, the paper mill in Cantonment has had to submit biological reports on conditions in Perdido Bay. But these "studies" were not at all independent. We will try and review as many of the "independent" studies, as we can in future newsletters. Most of these "independent" studies were done by governmental agencies.
An early study of which we are aware is a study done in January 1970 titled Effects of Pollution on Water Quality: Perdido River and Bay Alabama and Florida done by U.S. Department of the Interior, Southeast Water Laboratory in Athens, GA. This was a rather thorough and direct evaluation of the pollution coming from all sources including the paper mill in Cantonment Florida then owned by St. Regis. The conclusions of the study and report are as follows.
"The inadequately treated waste effluent from St. Regis Paper Company at Cantonment, Florida is the major cause of the low dissolved oxygen, unsightly foam, excessive sludge deposits, and increased lignin in Perdido Bay and River, as well as degraded water quality in Eleven Mile Creek....Dissolved oxygen in the north and northeast section of the bottom of Perdido Bay on both the Alabama and Florida sides is less than the 4.0 mg/l minimum value established by the states of Alabama and Florida for these waters,...About 86% of the bottom of Perdido Bay and the lower portion of the Perdido River is covered with sludge deposits containing organic carbon content in excess of 3.0%. These deposits exercise a major oxygen demand on the overlying water...The average biochemical oxygen demand content of the wastes discharged from the St. Regis holding ponds is equivalent to a population of 330,000...Wastes from Eleven Mile Creek are also carried into the Perdido River...Chemical constitutents of foam and scum samples collected on both the Alabama and Florida shore were the same as those found in water samples collected in Eleven Mile Creek. The effluent from St. Regis is the source of the unsightly foam observed in Perdido Bay...Comparison of organic carbon-organic nitrogen ratios of the sludge deposits in Perdido Bay show that they are primarily of paper mill waste effluent origin. St. Regis effluent is the major source of oxygen demanding sludge deposits in Perdido Bay. These sludge deposits, together with the suspended and soluble oxygen demanding material in the St. regis effluent are the cause of the low dissolved oxygen concentrations in the bottom waters of Perdido River and Bay."
Recomendations from this 1970 Report:
"To abate the existing pollution in Perdido River and Perdido Bay, the following water quality management and waste abatement program is recommended as a minimum:
1) An overall removal efficiency of 90% for carbonaceous waste material from the St. Regis Paper Company. The St. Regis waste effluent, as measured below the present riffle terraces, not exceed 8,880 pounds per day of five-day BOD, and 2,610 pounds per day of total organic carbon. All settleable solids be removed.
2) The St. Regis Paper Company remove the foam causing constitutents from its effluent.
3) The St. Regis Paper Company reduce the color of its waste discharge to levels not greater than background measured at the U.S. 90 bridge on the Styx and Perdido Rivers.
4) St. Regis Paper Company in cooperation with the Florida Department of Air and Water Pollution Control make a feasibility study of construction of an essentially closed system involving recirculation, treatment and reuse of its process water. This report shall be submitted to the Conferees by January 1, 1071.
5) The six sewage treatment plants on Bayou Marcus be consolidated into a central facility with removal efficiencies of 90% for carbonaceous material.
6) All waste abatement facilities be in operation by January 1, 1973"
How have the recommendations of this study been followed by our present environmental agencies? Well, Number 5 has been completed. All of the little sewage treatment plants on Bayou Marcus have been closed. The central Avondale (or Bayou Marcus) sewage treatment plant is removing well over 90% of carbonaceous material. This was finally completed in the late 1990's. As for the paper mill, they are removing anywhere from 93 to 95% of the carbonaceous material from their effluent. Their five-day BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) has been running about 2,000 to 3,000 pounds per day. Not too bad in that area.. They have met the recommendation of 8,880 pounds per day of the 1970 study. But how about total organic carbon? The state of Florida DEP does not require that IP measure this parameter. It is no longer a parameter in the permit. This parameter has fallen off the radar screen of the environmental agencies. But Friends of Perdido Bay still measures this parameter in the IP effluent. We were given the opportunity of measuring the IP effluent at their compliance point (the flume). On September 11, 2003, IP was discharging 10,676 pounds per day. This is way above the 2,610 pounds per day recommended in 1970. Much of the total organic carbon is found in the suspended solids which IP is discharging. The 1970 report which recommends that all settleable solids be removed has been ignored. In the proposed draft permit, DEP is going to allow an average of 8,000 pounds per day and up to 16,000 pounds per day of total suspended solids. It looks like there is going to be a continuation of the oxygen demanding material. Why? It costs the paper mill too much to remove these solids, so they are going to use Perdido Bay as their settling pond. Simple as that.
A Holiday Wish List
Do Americans really need any more "stuff"? We are sold on thinking we need digital cameras, new cars, bigger houses. But we don't really need these things. What we really need is clean air and water, food free from chemicals, peace of mind, wise leaders, love of family and friends, good health, and time to enjoy what God has given us. We hope you get some of these this holiday season.