Friends of Perdido Bay
10738 Lillian Highway
Pensacola, FL 32506
Tidings The Newsletter of the Friends of Perdido Bay
February 2006 Volume 19 Number 1 Jackie Lane -Editor
Ready for Another Year
With the fight to clean up our bay still a long way from over, we will continue fighting the major source of pollution in our bay - the paper mill. While many people say -"Oh, there must be other sources", objective scientists (as opposed to slanted scientists) have stated that "there is only one major source of pollution in the upper bay - the paper mill". Most recently, Dr. Ken Heck, a marine biologist from the University of South Alabama, testified in the class action lawsuit on Perdido Bay that Perdido Bay is a classic example of a body of water with a single source of pollution - the paper mill. Even Dr. Skip Livingston, who is going to be an expert for IP in the upcoming administrative hearing, finally admitted to that fact in a 2000 report. So while we wish that we could focus on other problems and potential problems, like reasonable development, the paper mill and the pollution it is causing must remain our focus.
Administrative Hearing on IP permit is rescheduled
After the administrative hearing on the International Paper permit had been postponed several times and then abated for approximately two months, the hearing has now been rescheduled for May 31 through June 2, 2006 and June 26 through June 30, 2006. The hearing will be held in the U.S. Courthouse, Grand Jury Room, 5th Floor, 1 North Palafox Street, Pensacola, FL 32506, beginning at 9:00 AM CST. There will undoubtly be a lot of legal wrangling before the hearing begins. We will be busy taking depositions before we get to the hearing. In the next articles we will explain some of the issues to you.
Is it Bleached or Unbleached?
When IP announced in July 2005 that they were considering going to make unbleached paper (called Option A) instead of bleached, preparation for hearing on the proposed permit issued in April 12, 2005 basically stopped. We had to wait until the Department of Environmental Protection looked at all the information and then issued a permit incorporating Option A. Option A allows IP to produce 1536 air dried tons (ADT) of unbleached linear board and 441 air-dried bleached tons (ADBT) of pulp. The total production will increase from 1500 tons per day (current production allowed) to 1977 tons per day. In going to unbleached linear board, IP has proposed to shut down one paper making machine, the hardwood pulping and bleaching plant, and a power boiler. BUT the important thing to note about these changes is that THEY ARE OPTIONAL.
On January 13, 2006, DEP finally issued a revised permit incorporating Option A. Even though we considered the changes to the manufacturing process to be major changes, the changes which DEP made to the original permit were very minor. DEP seems to have waved its magic wand and decided that the only thing which is going to be changed in the wastewater is the lowering of some chlorinated chemicals. Never mind that a 400 ton per day increase in softwood pulping will cause additional salts to be added plus all the additional chemicals from pine trees. The sex change in mosquito fish in Eleven Mile Creek, which had apparently disappeared with the use of hardwoods, would most likely reappear. But these will be issues raised at the hearing, if not before.
But wait a minute. Option A is only Optional. While we were waiting for DEP to revise the permit to incorporate the Option A changes, DEP published its intent to issue an air permit to IP allowing them to increase softwood bleaching. IP wants to increase softwood bleaching from 700 tons per day to 1000 tons per day and decrease hardwood bleaching. There would be a slight increase in the total daily production. I asked for an administrative hearing on the air permit, since there seemed to be a direct conflict between the unbleached proposal for the wastewater and the bleached proposal for the air. During a conference call with the judge in the wastewater case, Terry Cole, IP's attorney, partially clarified the conflict by relating to us that the increase softwood bleaching was only an "interim" plan. Of course we don't know how long "interim" is. But we do know one thing, IP is going back to using mainly softwoods. Since 2003, IP has been using eucalyptus chips from Brazil as hardwoods. This shipping of chips must be expensive and local hardwoods must be disappearing and expensive.
So, in the interim, IP intends to increase softwood bleaching, and after that who knows? It appears that IP has already installed some of the improvements (primary clarifiers) to their wastewater treatment system and now they want their permit. Its going to be a fight.
Freebies for IP
In a global economy, corporations, like International Paper are pushing many of their costs on to others. Not only are workers receiving fewer benefits and absorbing more of the workforce costs, but local communities which have these global corporations are being asked to forgive taxes, accept more pollution, provide roads and transportation, and generally absorb any cost possible for the corporation. In business jargon, this is called "externalizing costs"; I call this corporate welfare. At some point the community has to ask itself, are the costs to the public worth the few jobs that the industry provides? The costs to the public are: increased illness because of pollution laws which are too lax or not enforced; more strain on public resources due to lack of roads, schools, etc, and generally lower taxes due to devaluation of properties. Here on Perdido Bay, we have been forced to accept the increased pollution from IP. Many of us are afraid to use our waterfront property for swimming and recreation due to the foul smelling water with foam and dangerous chemicals which we know come from IP. Instead of IP treating their wastes sufficiently to allow Perdido Bay to be a recreational body of water, IP is saving money by not treating their wastes sufficiently. Florida, Alabama and the federal EPA are allowing this to happen.
During discovery for the administrative hearing, another cost that the paper mill has passed off to the local community has come to light. IP is disposing of its ash from its power boilers, free at the Escambia County landfill. IP generates nearly all the power necessary to operate the mill using 6 power boilers. Originally, IP was supposed to use natural gas and diesel fuel along with some coal and wood bark (per air permit issued in 1993). Natural gas and diesel fuel produce no ash. When Champion converted to 100% chlorine dioxide bleaching in 1995, their power requirement increased greatly. Chlorine dioxide is generated at the mill from sodium chlorate. This requires a lot of power.
Escambia County Commissioners must have decided that they wanted to help the paper mill out. A deal was struck. A biomass company, DTE Biomass Energy Systems, agreed to install a gas collection system at the Perdido Landfill and pipe the captured gas to the paper mill. Champion, the old owners of the paper mill, agreed to buy the gas from the biomass company. Escambia County got a royalty of about $75,000 from the biomass Company for the gas. But Champion got the best deal of all. The paper mill is able to dispose of up to 200 cubic yards per day of boiler ash waste at the Perdido Landfill - Free. Escambia County charges $28.00/ton to dump at the landfill. We figure that the paper mill saves approximately $2,000,000 per year by using the Perdido Landfill. This is money out of the public's pocket since the deal was made in 1996.
But the story isn't finished. In 2000, IP went on a cost-cutting binge. IP finished the saw mill in McDavid which Champion had started. The saw mill provided IP with even more scrap to burn in their boilers. This scrap was free (except for transportation to the mill). So IP no longer wanted to buy the gas from the biomass company- it cost too much. But because IP was generating even more ash, they still utilized their free privileges at the landfill. Right now we have a situation where the landfill is flaring the gas because IP refuses to buy it. Escambia County is still getting royalties from the biomass company and IP is still disposing of its ash at the landfill - free. The big losers in this deal are the biomass company and Escambia County taxpayers. The contract was a 15-year contract and doesn't expire for 5 more years. To break the contract, would be "messy" in the words of an Escambia County attorney. So it looks like IP has another sweetheart deal.
IP has their own landfill. But it looks like they are in the process of closing their own landfill. It costs too much to run. At one time, IP trucked their solids from their primary settling ponds to their landfill. But IP has recently finished installing primary clarifiers which squeeze the water out of solids which settle out in their settling ponds. I suspect IP is burning these solids.
The burning of all this waste wood to provide power at the paper mill appears to me to be environmentally horrible. Burning of wood products produces dioxin. And IP burns massive amounts of wood products. The dioxin that we found in Perdido Bay at high levels (30 parts per trillion) came from a combustion source. According to our chemist, this dioxin was both air and water borne. The people who live around the paper mill in Cantonment are at a health risk. I am sure there are officials out there who know this. But the information is being masked. We keep hearing of children living around the mill who have brain tumors. How horrible can this get before someone does something? It is truly amazing that horrible situations can continue because our government has been taken over by big money.
As part (as an intervenor) of the class action law suit on Perdido Bay now being handled by the Levin Law Firm, I have seen why big business gets away with literal murder. The heart of the problem is dishonest science. Big industries, especially chemical industries (IP and oil industries are chemical industries) have been grooming certain scientists for years to put out false and misleading data. As part of their defense against the plaintiff's (Perdido Bay's residents) allegations of pollution damaging their properties, IP has dragged out their team of science manipulators. Both IP's biologist and the risk management specialist have credentials which would certainly convince a jury that they were experts. If you look back at these guys past work history, they have been funded for years by the chemical industry. Their pages and pages of published research papers are slanted toward industry viewpoints. They have sat on countless panels convened by government agencies to assess damaging chemicals and downplayed the dangers of these chemicals. Thrown in among the pages of research are probably some legitimate pieces of science. But for the most part, these guys are paid prostitutes. So, it was no surprise that their evaluation of Dr. Isphording's and Dr. Heck's research on Perdido Bay found all kinds of faults. Dr. Heck and Dr. Isphording had been hired by the Levin Firm to assess the affect of the paper mill on Perdido Bay. Dr. Heck and Dr. Isphording found the paper mill was having obvious detrimental effects on Perdido Bay and that it was the single source of pollution in the upper bay. IP's scientists were able to poke holes in the argument using some ridiculous reasoning. But whether or not a judge will be able to see through IP's science remains to be seen.
In one obvious attempt to befuddle the judge about our dioxin data taken in 1999 and then again in 2003 and 2004 and 2005, IP's expert said our dioxin data was no higher than the average dioxin values in the earth's crust. What IP's expert failed to mention in his report about our dioxin data was that in 1999 we found less than 1 part per trillion dioxin in the sediments of Perdido Bay (upper and mid- Perdido Bay). Three years later in we found 30 parts per trillion dioxin and high arsenic in sediments of Perdido Bay. So of what relevance is the fact that the earth's crust contains 19 parts per trillion dioxin? We will see.
$1 M to study stormwater on Perdido Bay
Last year the Florida legislature gave $500,000 to Escambia County for a study of stormwater in Perdido Bay. Another $500,000 will be added in man hours by Escambia County personnel. In all, $1 M will be spent studying the effect of non-point source runoff on Perdido Bay. Water quality will be measured. Sediments will be surveyed for nutrients, and toxic contaminants (how about living animals?). And one stormwater improvement project will be undertaken. According to Chips Kirschenfeld of the Escambia County Engineering Department, this is a component of the Perdido Bay Restoration Project. Well, we hope so, but we are not holding our breath. We have seen a lot of money spent on Perdido Bay without much restoration, mainly because government officials fail to admit what the real problem is.