Friends of Perdido Bay
10738 Lillian Highway
Pensacola, FL 32506
Tidings The Newsletter of the Friends of Perdido Bay
December 2003 Volume 16 Number 6 Jackie Lane -Editor
Seasons greetings from Friends of Perdido Bay
We hope you all have a very healthy and happy holiday season. We also hope that the new year will bring us good fortune and good luck. We need both in our fight to keep the paper mill from building a 37.5 million gallon a day pipeline to the Perdido Bay watershed. One of these years we will finally have a clean bay.
No draft permit yet
In the last issue of the newsletter in September, we expected the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to issue a draft permit at the end of September. We are still waiting for that draft permit to come out. The Florida DEP is now saying that they will issue the permit in mid to late January. What could they be waiting for?
Once the permit is issued, there will be a 30-day comment period and then a public hearing where oral and written comments will also be received. After the public hearing, the DEP will issue the permit in a formal legal statement known as the "Intent to Issue the Permit". From the date of the Intent to Issue, any adversely affected party will have a 15-day period to challenge the permit and ask for an administrative hearing. The administrative hearing process involves a formal hearing before an administrative hearing judge. This is a formal legal process and an attorney is a necessity. Usually, DEP will step aside and let the entity whose permit is being challenged (IP) fight any opposing parties. From past experience, the first step the paper mill attorneys will take is to claim opposing parties are not adversely affected, thereby disqualifying opposing parties from the hearing.
Legal rules for the hearing are the same as a civil legal process. Parties can seek any and all information dealing with the permit issue through "discovery". Discovery involves taking the testimony of opposing parties, seeking documents and being allowed entrance to opponents property to do testing. Because of the complex issues involved in this case, the legal preparation for this case will require a considerable amount of time.
It is just salt - with a little more
International Paper is claiming that they can meet all the Florida standards except one - amount of salt. Actually this is not true. In the draft permit that we have seen, they are requesting variances for three state standards - conductivity(salts), pH, and dissolved oxygen. We have data which show that they are going to need variances for additional problems as well. Variances can only be issued, if no environmental harm is expected to result from issuance of these variances. The "salts" which IP refers to are chemicals which are washed out of the pulp before paper is made. Much of the salts are recaptured and re-used in the pulping process, but about 5% (according to the paper industry) cannot be recaptured and are released. What are these salts? Sodium, calcium, chloride, sulfate, sodium bicarbonate. Many of these salts are electrically charged and hence will conduct a weak electrical current. Hence, one measure of the salts in the water is conductivity. The more easily water conducts electricity, the more salts are contained. But some of these salts are bound to other chemicals and to each other so that they do not conduct a weak electrical current. The conductivity or presence of many salts is masked. The salt of aluminum, which is called alum, is usually bound to an organic molecule and is not part of the conductivity test.
The problem with salts is that they are not just salts. Industry does not use pure chemicals. The chemicals which industry uses are "industrial grade chemicals" and can have varying degrees of impurities. Many times these impurities are heavy metals - cadmium, mercury, arsenic, and lead. Since the early 1990's, industries have started swapping chemicals which are by-products of their reactions with other industries which need that chemical. Often these recycled chemicals contain quite a bit of contamination. The government has encouraged this recycling to try and make chemical wastes "valuable". If a chemical has value, an industry is not likely to just throw it away (or dispose of it in the water). An example from the paper mill in Cantonment, is their recapturing of the lime (calcium carbonate) which the is a by-product of the process. IP sells this lime to farmers. But, what other chemicals, are present in the lime? They may know, but we don't.
Not only are the "salts" contaminated with other unwanted products (some of which may cause cancer), but the amounts of these salts is enormous. The environmental agencies used to have a standard for "total dissolved solids"which included these salts. This standard has been removed. But from an old report, the paper mill in Cantonment released 270,000 pounds per day of total dissolved solids. Quite a bit.
The land application scheme which IP is proposing will not remove these contaminated salts. And even though IP will say they that these heavy metals can not be detected in their effluent, these small amounts of contaminated salts will continue to accumulate in the bottom sediments of Perdido Bay.
Refuting IP Facts
On December 16, 2003, IP and the Lillian Community Club had a meeting where the IP plan was presented. About 60 people attended, and about half the audience were opposed to the project. Questions could only be asked on cards, and the lack of time, limited the number of questions which could be answered (or dodged). IP passed out a brochure entitled "Pensacola Mill, Partnership Project Progress Report". We would like to clarify many of the statements made in this report.
Statement in the IP brochure
Friends of Perdido Bay Clarification
"We're ready to start construction on the project that will improve water quality and make our paper mill the first in America to eliminate the direct discharge of water into a creek, river or bay."
The project will most likely improve the water quality in Perdido Bay. But how much? Many pollutants will still reach the bay. The big question is: Do you want papermill effluent discharged into the bay for several more generations? IP has announced that they are going to use Eucalyptus chips for pulp in the future. What chemicals will be coming out then?
Is eliminating "direct discharge" a real benefit or is it simply a way of dodging environmental regulations?
"The State of Florida requires that Elevenmile Creek, a Class III waterway, be suitable for all forms of recreation, and since our discharge is such a large portion of the creek's flow that means our discharge is held to the same standards."
The paper mill should have been held to this standard for the past twenty-odd years. The fact that the state and federal environmental agencies (DEP and EPA) have not held the mill to these standards demonstrates the inadequate enforcement and review of permits that will continue into the future.
"When International Paper acquired the mill, we pledged to improve water quality, obtain a regular operating permit and meet state and federal requirements."
Champion Paper Company made the same "pledges" when they acquired the mill from St. Regis in 1985, yet when they were acquired by IP in the year 2001, they had not fulfilled their pledges and had dodged a court order to be in compliance with state standards by 1995.
"This partnership [with ECUA] will allow us to achieve even greater environmental and economic benefits than we could alone."
No doubt this is true. The economic benefits are benefits to IP. By partnering with ECUA, government-backed low rate loans became available to IP, and ECUA is helping construct the pipeline at the expense of its customers. In a study done about three years ago, ECUA decided it didn't need additional treatment facilities in that area until about the year 2015.
"All wastewater for the mill and the ECUA plant will be monitored for compliance before it enters the pipeline that will deliver it to the wetlands. The wetlands will provide additional filtering and environmental benefits, but the project does not rely on those benefits for compliance....The State does allow specific exceptions where appropriate and not harmful to encourage the use and creation of wetlands."
The effluent leaving the discharge area will not be monitored for compliance with standards before entering lower Elevenmile Creek and Perdido Bay. The purpose of the discharge area (euphemistically called "wetlands" by IP) is to allow IP to discharge effluent that would not meet standards for discharge into the creek or bay. Do you want effluent of unknown quality entering the creek and bay? What about the "chemicals" which IP is going to release once they begin using Eucalyptus chips?
"pH-Our treated water has the neutral pH of pure water while wetlands are naturally more acidic..."
The pH exception is not normal for a natural wetland, and will definitely affect the types of plants which live there and also in the bay.
"Salinity-The salt level in our discharge will be slightly more than what is allowed in a freshwater stream."
The use of the term "salinity" hides the true nature of the salts. This is definitely not table salt. It includes a wide variety of metal salts plus organic materials grouped under the term "AOX," which includes chlorinated organic compounds. U.S. federal standards limit the amount of AOX that can be discharged into surface waters. British Columbia standards allow no AOX at all to be discharged. We think British Columbia's limits on these dangerous compounds are wise.
"Dissolved Oxygen-The water leaving the mill meets the dissolved oxygen standard, but as it moves through the pipeline, the oxygen level is lowered."
The oxygen consuming nature of paper mill effluent is one of its most obvious detrimental characteristics. The biological oxygen demand (BOD) of paper mill effluent continues for longer than 90 days, compared to the one-week demand of domestic waste water. The two-to-three day trip through the discharge area will still leave much oxygen consuming material in the effluent.
"All of our research indicates that these exceptions will not adversely affect the ecology of the wetland or the surrounding waters. Nevertheless, the area will be closely monitored for years to ensure that no harm comes to them."
Some big questions:
1. Is there anything in the proposed permit that requires IP to correct harm that monitoring discloses?
2. What of harm to the people who eat the fish that ingest this effluent? Who is monitoring that?
3. If the monitoring shows that the effluent is harming the bay, will the pipeline be removed?
4. Has IP tested the effluent when Eucalyptus chips were being pulped?
"Our goal is to keep our people and our mill in Pensacola for years to come by ensuring that we comply with the requirements of the federal, state and local governments and the wishes of the citizens of Northwest Florida."
We sincerely believe that the wishes of the citizens of Northwest Florida (and Southwest Alabama) are that the mill stop discharging (even indirectly) into Perdido Bay. Why not use the effluent to irrigate forest lands owned by IP?
Or maybe go into a much larger body of water such as Escambia Bay where their improved effluent would meet state standards.