Friends of Perdido Bay
10738 Lillian Highway
Pensacola, FL 32506
Tidings The Newsletter of the Friends of Perdido Bay
July and August 2006 Volume 19 Number 3 Jackie Lane -Editor
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you
Our request for donations really produced an outpouring of response. Hopefully everyone is aware of the disaster that issuing this permit will be for Perdido Bay. The administrative hearing is still in progress. There are two more days of hearings planned for July 27 and 28, 2006. If we do not finish on those dates, more dates will be scheduled. We will keep everyone informed about the progress of the hearings.
Progress of the Administrative Hearing
The administrative hearing began with three days of hearings at the end of May. During the first three days, IP presented its case that their plan for going to a modified activated sludge and an overland discharge was going to allow them to meet all Florida’s water quality standards. The hearing resumed the last week of June. IP finished up presenting their witnesses on the second day and then the DEP presented one witness - Bill Evans, their industrial waste water permit supervisor. Friends of Perdido Bay and members of the Lane family have been presenting witnesses and testimony for the past four days of hearings. The hearings are going to resume on July 27 and 28, 2006. How do I think that the hearings are going? Great
IP’s witnesses who testified about the condition of Perdido Bay were Tom Gallagher and Robert “Skip” Livingston. As you may remember, Dr. Skip Livingston was the consultant who said that Perdido Bay’s problems were coming from the Gulf of Mexico. Well, believe it or not, he is still saying the same thing, but with some variation. As we have all seen, Perdido Bay’s problems have only grown worse. Since 2000, Perdido Bay has become especially bad. Livingston acknowledged that fact. But he said that the decline in life in the bay was due to outbreaks of toxic algae caused by too many nutrients. These nutrients were coming from the paper mill. Of course, according to Livingston, the new treatment system will cure all the problems because it will remove the nutrients to the levels proposed in the permit. The limits of phosphate and nitrogen in the proposed permit which is being challenged are based on levels which Livingston found in Perdido Bay back in 1988 and 1989. According to Livingston, 1988 and 1989 were “good “ years as far as nutrients in Perdido Bay. These were also the years when Livingston began his study.
Livingston testified that he noted an especially severe decline in the bay’s bottom life in 2002. He said that his crew noted a strong order of chlorine in the fall of 2002. He attributed the “kill” to this chlorine which he blamed on the ECUA’s Bayou Marcus plant. Unfortunately, ECUA has not used chlorine at the Bayou Marcus plant since 1998. A more likely cause of the “chlorine smell “ was the washing of sodium chlorate ( a potent herbicide) into the bay from IP’s wastewater treatment ponds. In April of 2002, IP spilled 60,000 pounds of sodium chlorate at the mill. This sodium chlorate was washed into the wastewater treatment system. As a salt, the sodium chlorate probably settled out until a heavy rain washed the sodium chlorate out of the ponds. The “chlorine smell” occurred after a heavy rain in the fall. My question is - why were we not warned about this spill and told to stay out of the water? Is this not grounds for a law suit? Oh yes, there is a law suit on Perdido Bay but it seems to be going no where.
IP’s modeler, Tom Gallagher, predicted that the dissolved oxygen in Perdido Bay would not get any worse with the discharge anticipated from the overland flow. IP estimates that the level of oxygen consuming material which is currently being discharged into Perdido Bay will be unchanged with the new discharge. Because the flow from IP will be diverted from Eleven Mile Creek to the land, water quality in Eleven Mile Creek will improve greatly. However, the flow from the land will re-enter Perdido Bay through Tee and Wicker lakes and will cause severe damage to these two fishing lakes. Tom Gallagher said that the oxygen concentration in deeper waters of Perdido Bay would not meet state standards even if there were no discharge from the mill. I say let’s try it for one year and see.
For our case, we had several of DEP’s local biologists testify. If you can remember back to the last hearing held in 1988 between the Perdido Bay Environmental Association (PBEA) and Champion, the biologists testified for PBEA about the violations in Eleven Mile Creek. For telling the truth they were reprimanded and taken out of the permitting process. Hopefully this will not happen to them this time. One of DEP’s biologist testified that Perdido Bay was the most polluted bay in Florida’s northern Gulf. They also testified about their recent studies in Perdido Bay indicating that there was so little life present that it appeared to them that there was something toxic being dumped into the bay. DEP also found dioxin and heavy metals in the sediments of Perdido Bay. We think someone should investigate this dumping. Florida probably will not do anything, so maybe Alabama should start an investigation.
So why is IP going to all the trouble to pipe their effluent to a site ten miles from the mill? Very simple. DEP’s “Experimental Wetlands Rule” which IP is using to justify dumping their effluent on the land really does not require that IP meet any of the state standards. IP is saying that they are going to meet all state standards before they go into the wetland. That statement is absurd. IP is not going to meet state standards any more than they are meeting them today. By going overland to the bay, and having their effluent enter the saltwater portion of the bay, they are not required to meet ammonia or salt standards. For other standards such as turbidity, color, pH etc. etc, they are getting a variance in the wetlands and a 9 year period to “experiment” to see if these standards will have an effect. Who is going to measure the effect? Would you believe it’s IP’s consultants?
We had several members of Friends of Perdido Bay testify about various problems with the bay. We will try and keep everyone posted about the administrative hearing and the outcome on our website and in the newsletter.
Toxicity in Perdido Bay
We have seen an obvious decline in Perdido Bay. So have biologists. We think that something should be done besides ignoring the problem. We are asking that you write either the Attorney General of Florida, Charlie Crist or the Baldwin County District Attorney and ask them to investigate the source of the toxicity entering Perdido Bay. Here are the addresses.
Baldwin County District Attorney Office of Attorney General
P.O. Box 1269 State of Florida
Bay Minette, AL 36507 The Capitol PL-01
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1050
IP increasing production through an air permit
For the current administrative hearing on IP’s wastewater discharge permit, IP is requesting a production increase from 1,600 tons of pulp to 1,900 tons of pulp per day. However, just recently IP has requested an air construction permit for their conversion to unbleached cardboard. Through the air permit, IP will be allowed to discharge 2,500 tons of unbleached pulp a day. This is a huge increase and certainly will result in a worsening of both air and water quality of our area. From baseline air emissions, IP is proposing to increase volatile organic compounds by 36 tons per year, nitrogen oxide by 32 tons and particulate matter by 24 tons per year. In the last permitting cycle, the paper mill did a similar trick. They asked for a certain level of production in a wastewater permit and then increased that through an air permit. Many of us challenged the air permit in 1992 but were denied an administrative hearing because the judge said that we did not have standing. Air pollutants will affect all of us, so we have to do something. It seems unbelievable that our environmental agencies would allow more air pollutants in an area which is in the top 0.5% of areas in the U.S. for locally generated airborne toxins. (According to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory).
Escambia County trying to Fund Pollution
A recent legal notice in the Pensacola News Journal announced a meeting of Escambia County’s Commissioners on August 3, 2006 in the Commission Chambers in the Escambia County Courthouse beginning at 5:37 PM. The purpose of the meeting is to get public comment on Escambia County’s proposed plan to issue Pollution Control Bonds to IP so that IP can continue with its plan to increase production and pollution of Escambia County. When are our elected officials going to see the light? True, by lending them money, IP will continue to operate the mill. But at what cost to the public and the economic future of Escambia County. How will Escambia County attract clean industry to this area when it is one of the most polluted counties in the country? It is mind-boggling that the commissioners can’t see what the end result of their actions will be. IP is a big company and should be able to pay for the upgrades to the mill themselves. We are asking all our members to attend this hearing and speak against the issuance of these bonds. If you can not attend, write letters to Clerk of the Circuit Court, Board of County Commission, Escambia County Courthouse, 223 Palafox Place, Pensacola, FL 32501.
Will it or Won’t it
The state of Florida is just about ready to release the results of its determination of whether or not Perdido Bay and the streams in the Perdido Bay basin are impaired or not impaired. Back in 2000, Florida adopted a rule for how to determine if a water body is impaired. The rule was full of big loopholes which allowed many water bodies which were impaired to be classified as “not impaired”. The Florida rule also violated the language in the Clean Water Act. The Clean Water Act classifies any water body not meeting state standards as impaired with no exceptions. Recently a federal court has declared that the Florida rule does not agree with the Clean Water Act and that Florida should stop using their impaired waters rule. So far Florida has not complied with the federal court. So Florida is going to release its determination of which water bodies in the Perdido Bay Basin are impaired. A meeting to discuss the results of the impairment determination is scheduled for August 2, 2006 from 1 to 5 PM at UWF Conference Center A.
So what is the big deal if Perdido Bay is classified as impaired or not? Well for starters, if Perdido Bay is impaired no new discharges would be permitted in Perdido Bay. This means that ECUA’s plan to discharge 5 million gallons per day into Perdido Bay would not be allowed. If Perdido Bay is classified as impaired then a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) determination would be done and this would most likely lead to a reduction in the allowed level of pollutants. So we are hopeful that Perdido Bay will be classified as “impaired”, as it should be. This may alter IP’s and ECUA’s plan s to build the pipeline. Back to the drawing board.
Since 1999, we have been reporting on a lawsuit which was first filed for Ester Johnson by Steve Medina who is now working at the Levin Law Firm. This suit has gone through many transformations . Several years ago the suit was proposed as a “class action” with additional class members added. The Levin Firm hired several experts to do studies and funded a public opinion study about people’s perceptions of the bay. In turn, IP hired its own experts to refute the Levin Firm’s experts. There was supposed to be a hearing the last week of June on the certification of the suit as a class action. The hearing was cancelled. Right now it looks like the Plaintiffs’ attorneys are giving ground and the only complaint that is being made is “Loss of Use and enjoyment”. No trespass, No nuisance. IP has now made a motion to abate the lawsuit.