Friends of Perdido Bay
10738 Lillian Highway
Pensacola, FL 32506
Tidings The Newsletter of the Friends of Perdido Bay
December 2006 Volume 19 Number 5 Jackie Lane -Editor
Thank You for Your Support - See You in 2007
We want to thank everyone for their support, both financially and morally, in our fight to keep IP from building a pipeline to the Perdido watershed. So far the hearing officer (judge) has not ruled on our challenge to the proposed IP permit. Actually the longer it takes the judge to rule, the more hope we have that we will prevail or at least hold off the deal to build the pipeline until alternate plans are hatched. We thought that we had presented a very strong showing at the hearing. If the judge should rule against us, we intend to appeal the ruling. Most likely IP will do the same if the judge rules against them. Because of your support, we have been able to continue and will do so until our bay is clean and can be used for recreation.
Some of the members who joined Friends of Perdido Bay after 1995 may not realize that Friends of Perdido Bay was originally founded, in part, to work with the paper mill. The last permit issued to the paper mill in December 1989 (it was a temporary permit and was supposed to be for only five years) had been challenged by my husband and myself, several other people and by the Perdido Bay Environmental Association. After the original challenge, my husband and myself were contacted by Vicki Tschinkel who had been Secretary of Florida’s Department of Environmental Regulation in 1986. She said that the paper mill which was then owned by Champion would do a study to determine what was wrong and would then correct the problem before the expiration of the temporary operating permit in December 1994. We knew from documents that we found in the DEP files that the paper mill was doing huge damage to Perdido Bay and that the problem was mainly caused by the organic matter discharged to the bay by the paper mill. Organic material causes oxygen to be used up. Low dissolved oxygen was a chronic problem in Perdido Bay. But the thought of having more data to demonstrate what the problems were in Perdido Bay and having the paper mill voluntarily correct those problems was appealing to us. As it turned out, the plan proposed by Vicki Tschinkel did not appeal to most people.
Jo Ann Allen who has since passed away we hope to a “clean” Perdido Bay was president of the Perdido Bay Environmental Association in 1987. She said you could not trust the paper mill and especially could not trust their spokesman., Frank Westmark. Jo Ann had been involved with litigation against the paper mill in the early 1970's and had learned the lessons of dealing with paper mills. Most people who had been in litigation against the paper mill in the early 1970's have died. So Jo Ann Allen, the Perdido Bay Environmental Association and several other individuals went to an administrative hearing on the proposed permit issued in 1987. In the process of doing “discovery” for this hearing, violations caused by the paper mill in Eleven Mile Creek were discovered. According to state law, a permit can not be issued to a discharger if that discharger is causing water quality violations. So the Florida environmental agency withdrew the permit and issued a “temporary” permit with a Consent Order. This Consent Order was a document agreed upon between the paper mill and the state environmental agency. In the Consent Order, Champion agreed to do a study and correct all the problems it was causing in Perdido Bay before the expiration of the temporary operating permit and Consent Order in December 1994. The Perdido bay Environmental Association decided to continue their challenge of the temporary operating permit and consent order. A hearing was held in 1988. The outcome of that hearing allowed the paper mill five years to violate state law before they were supposed to come into compliance by December 1994.
When the Board of the Perdido Bay Environmental Association decided to challenge the 1987 permit, my husband and myself who thought the idea of working with the paper mill (at least for a couple of years) was valid, were left out in the cold. We, and several others of like mind, resigned from the Board of the Perdido Bay Environmental Association and started another group, Friends of Perdido Bay, Inc. Friends of Perdido Bay was founded to clean up Perdido Bay. At that time, we thought the best way to clean up the bay was to work with the paper mill. With the help of several other people, we founded Friends of Perdido Bay in 1988. For several years we had meetings with Champion. We suggested one technology which looked very promising at the time to improve wastewater - constructed wetlands. Champion even went so far as to build a “pilot” constructed wetland treatment system. In 1992, the Board of Friends of Perdido Bay was given a tour of the pilot wetland treatment system built by Champion. We were all hopeful that the pilot system would turn into a 1,500 to 2,000 acre constructed wetland which would certainly improve the paper mill effluent. But that never happened. Jo Ann Allen was right. You can not trust the paper mill.
We began to understand that, to business, the idea of environmental protection is fine as long as it brings a return on their investment. The bottom line is money. Companies which are owned by stockholders, such as Champion and IP, are required to make as much money for their stockholders as possible. The welfare of the company itself, its workforce, and certainly the environment take second place to return for the stockholders. As far as priorities to a company, environmental protection must be nearly last unless it costs nothing or next to nothing. Selling yourself as “green”, doing some land stewardship to be publicized, or paying for a few studies are acceptable ways to spend corporate dollars. Investing in real technology to “clean up” is not. Instead of real clean up, stalling and getting politicians elected who are sympathetic to your side are acceptable methods. This is especially true in the paper industry which has powerful allies in the timber and chemicals industries.
According to rumors which were heard in 1992, the environmental manager from Champion traveled to New York to seek approval from the Champion Board of Directors for money to build a constructed wetland treatment system. The Board turned the environmental manager down. The environmental manager left Champion and went to work for another paper company. In 1995, Champion did invest a lot of money at their Cantonment plant. But the money was spent to modernize and upgrade existing equipment and to convert to chlorine dioxide bleaching from elemental chlorine bleaching. The money was not spent on “end-of-pipe” technology. “End-of-pipe” technology such as constructed wetlands was viewed as not bringing a return on the investment to the company. Looking back over those years, I can only surmise that the strategy of the company was to hope that the “environmentalists” would get tired and disappear as had happened in the past. When no one was looking, the Florida environmental agency and the paper mill would go into a “back room” and come out with a permit. We learned after Friends of Perdido Bay was formed in 1988 that most grass roots environmental groups only last three years. I guess they were hoping that we would be gone, certainly by 1995. But here we are after 18 years, 450 members strong. Thank you. At least we have probably extended the average “life” of grass roots environmental groups.
Too Many Contingencies
When International Paper took over the mill from Champion in 2000, they began planing to get a “real” permit - not an expired “temporary” permit. IP knew from their past studies in Eleven Mile Creek that they could not stay in the creek without investing a huge amount of money. IP was violating too many of Florida’s state standards in Eleven Mile Creek. Publically IP was saying their effluent had just too many salts to stay in fresh water. In reality it was not only salts but organic material which equaled the output of a domestic wastewater treatment plant of over 350,000 people, and toxic substances which did not get proper dilution. Many other paper mills the size of the mill in Cantonment discharge into large rivers which have sufficient flow to break down the wastes and dilute the materials so that toxicity is not present. Even in large rivers when the flow is not sufficient to prevent environmental problems, the paper mill is required to hold the effluent until the flow increases. The Bowater mill on the Tennessee River is an example of a mill with huge ponds which can hold its effluent until flow in the Tennessee River is sufficient for dilution. Georgia Pacific in Palatka Florida has the potential to hold its effluent for up to 80 days before releasing it into a small creek and the into the St. John’s River. The IP mill in Cantonment has a maximum holding time of 9 days. If the ponds are not dredged out or if it rains holding times can be reduced to 3 days or less. So, instead of building bigger ponds, or using equipment to remove salts, IP chose to get out of Eleven Mile Creek. This was the cheapest solution. The plan was even better (for IP) when a local utility was coerced into paying for a pipe line in what was billed as a “public - private partnership”.
When the pipeline plan first came out, IP was saying they were going to pipe their effluent to a “constructed” wetlands like the pilot constructed wetlands. Well, quietly the plan changed from an engineered, constructed wetland system where the pollutants are treated to a wetland discharge which is nothing more than an overland flow to Perdido Bay. It was publically touted as a way to recharge the ground water but in reality there would be very little seepage into the ground. International Paper and Emerald Coast Utilities (ECUA) talked about the wetlands filtering the pollutants but similar land discharge systems in North Florida have begun releasing those filtered pollutants back into the environment after a period of time. The failures of land application systems were never mentioned. So slowly a plan which appeared on the surface to have some merit, became totally unacceptable.
Just after Hurricane Ivan, the Florida DEP held a public hearing on the draft permit for the IP pipeline plan. Local dignitaries and the Chamber of Commerce got up and spoke in favor of the wonderful plan. It is doubtful than any of these supporters of the plan had ever read the permit with its 250 pages of regulatory jargon. Well, we read the permit, consent order and all the regulatory garbage. This plan which was touted to the public as solving all the problems in Perdido Bay was just a smoke screen for an open-ended permit to IP which allowed them to do just about anything. There were contingency plans which allowed IP to stay in Eleven Mile Creek. There were exemptions from having to meet water quality standards. IP presented studies but the studies did not support the limits which were in the permit. And then a year later, after the public hearing, IP decided to change their process, and increase their production from 1500 tons of pulp per day to 2500 tons of pulp per day . The changes were accepted by DEP as “minor modifications” of the proposed permit. Well, the short message of this whole story is - the permitting process is flawed; DEP’s concept is to protect the important industries from expensive requirements; and if you happened to be subject to the pollution from any of these industries which are fighting for their lives in today’s world economy, you need to live with it. Our answer, NO WAY.
Have a Merry Christmas and a Wonderful Holiday