Friends of Perdido Bay
10738 Lillian Highway
Pensacola, FL 32506
Tidings The Newsletter of the Friends of Perdido Bay
June 20036 Volume 15 Number 3 Jackie Lane -Editor
Board Votes to Oppose IP/ECUA Pipeline Plan
At its April meeting, the Friends of Perdido Bay Board voted to oppose the IP/ECUA pipeline plan. While the Board felt that the plan held some promise for improvement to the IP effluent, the permanency of the pipeline, the additional discharge from ECUA, and the unknowns associated with operation and maintenance of the disposal area were too great a determent for approval.
The IP/ECUA plan has three parts. IP is planing on upgrading their wastewater treatment system. This upgrade will allow IP to remove more nitrogen from their effluent, modernize the manner in which IP handles the large amount of sludges that are the result of paper making, and create large ponds for the storage of storm water. These improvements to IP's wastewater treatment system are long overdue.
The second part of the plan is the approximately 10-mile pipeline and 1600-acre effluent disposal area between Eleven Mile Creek and Perdido River. Both IP and ECUA are going to use the pipeline and the disposal area. The 48" pipeline which is designed to carry a maximum capacity of 37.5 million gallons of effluent a day (MGD) will transport, on a normal day, 25 MGD from IP and 5 MGD from a new ECUA wastewater treatment plant which is going to be built on IP property. The pipeline will go underneath I-10 and US. 90 and end up on the 2000 acre + property of IP. After traversing about 10 miles, the pipeline will discharge the effluent into a swale which will then allow the effluent to flow overland to Eleven Mile Creek and Perdido Bay. The flow will be slowed by a series of earthen berms. IP's engineers and consultants estimate that the overland flow will take about 6 days until it enters Eleven Mile Creek (in the salt water portion) and Perdido Bay.
The third part of the plan involves IP giving land to ECUA so that ECUA can build a new 5 MGD wastewater treatment plant for the central part of Escambia County. Part of the plan also involves the possible use of ECUA's treated effluent in IP's paper-making process.
Since this plan was announced over three and a half years ago, many of us have been waiting to get more details. We felt the plan had too many unknowns to really say one way or the other whether the $84 million dollar project would really be beneficial to the environment, specifically our environment of Perdido Bay. An application for this project was submitted to DEP on October 1, 2002. More information was submitted with the application, but there still seemed to be many unanswered questions. Friends of Perdido Bay submitted questions and comments about the project as described in the application, but got no answers. Since October 1, 2002, the DEP has sought more information from IP regarding this project. Ostensibly, the DEP is saying the application is not complete and they can not make a decision about whether to approve (or deny) the permit application. In reality, the DEP is delaying issuing approval for the permit until DEP is sure the application has all the i's dotted and t's crossed, so it will go through without too much fuss. Well, they had better delay issuing the permit again because we plan to make a BIG FUSS when the "Intent to Issue the permit" comes out. Why? See below.
The disposal area is not what it seems
The disposal area is not suitable for either a land disposal area or a wetland treatment system without a lot of work. IP does not intend to build a wetland treatment system of the type we suggested years ago. The combined IP/ECUA effluent will enter the 1600 acres in a dry upland area. The elevation in this initial area is quite high (about 50 feet above sea level) and then drops off rapidly to wetland areas (4 feet above sea level) surrounding Perdido Bay. While there are some wetlands in the area now, more will be created by the ponding of water using berms. Most of the proposed six horizontal berms are already in place as raised jeep trails. The wetlands and ponds of water will not be "engineered" to remove pollutants as is the case in a true engineered wetland treatment system. The purpose of the berms is to slow and direct water to the salty portions of Eleven Mile Creek and Perdido Bay.
Neither is the disposal area a true land application system in which most of the water soaks into the ground. The drop in elevation between the application area and the final flow area is too rapid for water to soak into the ground. Further, the water table is high in this area, due in part to the rapid descent, and will not allow effluent to seep into the ground. IP consultants told me that they estimate about 25% of the effluent will evaporate (not soak into the ground) in the summer. Who knows what will happen in the winter? During heavy rains, effluent material in the disposal area will quickly wash into Perdido Bay with little benefit from overland travel..
IP has said that the disposal area will remove pollutants which create low dissolved oxygen in water to "background" levels. "Background" for biological oxygen demand (BOD) is estimated to be 5 parts per million. At the end of April, 2003, IP had not yet estimated what the "background" levels of Total Suspended Solids would be. The decline in the pollutants as they passed over the disposal area in a six day journey seemed higher than expected. The microscopic wood fibers in paper mill effluent take a long time to degrade. Even after 120 days, the bacteria which degrade paper mill effluent are still active and using up oxygen. So the calculations which the consultant used for the removal of pollutants may have been for domestic wastewater, which degrades faster, and not for paper mill effluent.
In summary, the disposal area is NOT a wetland treatment system or a land disposal system. The disposal area seems to be merely a dodge to get the paper mill out of the fresh water portion of Eleven Mile Creek and into the salt water portion where IP thinks it can meet different water quality standards.
Throughout our long fight to clean up our bay, we have really heard some lies put out by the paper mill people. Last month I was invited to tour the disposal site with Dr. Jorling, IP's Vice President for the environment. At the end of the tour we discussed the health of Perdido Bay. I told him that since the beginning of 2000, the bay has seemed particularly bad - no clams, no grassbeds, turbid and brown water. Dr. Jorling said it was our chemicals which were killing life in Perdido Bay. I wonder if he realized how ridiculous this statement was. If this had been a well populated bay, I might have believed him. But IP is the only industrial discharger on a very sparsely populated bay. Engineering calculations would also show how big a discharger IP is. If you assume that people utilize 100 gallons of water a day (a standard figure), it would take 230,000 people to match the fluid out put from IP. At best, we have maybe 2000 people on the upper and middle bays. Hardly a drop in the bucket compared to IP.
The other lie which we hear is "We have not raised production for years". Years ago Champion put out a graph which showed the production in years since 1959. In 1959 production at the mill was 750 air dried tons of pulp per day with 200 of that being bleached pulp. In 1966, production rose to 900 air-dried tons of pulp per day. In 1983, production jumped to 1200 tons per day. In 1987, Champion was producing 1300 tons of pulp per day, all of that being bleached pulp. Today the mill is producing 1550 air-dried tons of pulp per day (all bleached), and we have been told they want to increase production another 100 tons through an air permit. The most significant increase for us was the change over to producing 100% bleached pulp.
A poem by Eunice Miller, a resident on upper Perdido Bay.
Remembering Perdido Bay Past
when swimming was a refreshing pleasure...
when mullet and flounder were edible...
when every foot down could cover five clams...
when there were some edible crab, often young "quarter size", living in abundant water grass.
Today 4/03, wondering if circling Osprey shall find food!
A Few Thoughts about Perdido Bay by Eleanor Stewart, a resident on upper Perdido Bay
I was not born here --- I "migrated" in 1951-- but my husband (Joe Stewart) was a "native". He was born in Pensacola in 1921 and lived here his entire life. I would like to share some of the things he has told me about Perdido Bay.
In the early 1900's there was a yellow fever scare in Pensacola and people were very frightened. Joe's brother-in-law told us about how his parents sought to escape from this dreaded disease. They brought the family by horse and buggy and camped out on the bluffs in the area just west of the Bauer Road intersection. They fished and swam. The water in the bay at that time was "clear as a crystal" and the bay was full of fish and shrimp.
This same brother-in-law and Joe used to have Joe's sister drive them out on Mobile Highway where they would launch their boat and then would fish all the way down Eleven Mile Creek to the bay. This was in the 30's and 40's. At that time the creek was clear. Joe said that you could see the bass as they crossed over the sand bars. A friend, Mr. Grund, had been displaced from his home on the Navy Base (at one time the Navy did not own all the land there) and the Navy condemned his property for their expansion. So he and his wife had to move and bought a place on Eleven Mile Creek near where the creek empties into Perdido Bay. They said it was so beautiful, just a wonderful place for swimming and fishing, and then St. Regis Paper Company started dumping in the creek. Overnight it became one fish kill after another and they had to sell out because of the horrible stench of hundreds of rotting fish. It was an easy was to acquire property up and down Eleven Mile Creek.
Joe and I bought our place on Perdido Bay in 1966 and at the time there were grass beds in front of our property. Baby shrimp were everywhere on those grass beds. At night we would go out with a light and dip net and catch those shrimp for gumbo. Also there were lots of mullet. BUT when we went by boat over to Perdido River, that is when we could "smell" St. Regis. You could see the green stinky stuff coming out of Eleven Mile Creek as it began to mix with the waters from the river and bay. You could dip your hand in the water and actually see what looked like tiny wood fibers.
So for the past 50 years the Paper Company has been dumping their "sewer and sludge and chemicals" and it has gradually covered the bottom of our bay, killed our grass beds and messed up the clear water of Perdido Bay. Many people have tried to make the government of both Florida and Alabama do something about the problem. They have tried to make the EPA stop this blatant pollution of our creek and bay but to no avail.
It is time to stop the pollution and make the responsible parties clean up the mess they have made. It is time to return Perdido Bay to the clean, clear bay it once was.
Do we have more remembrances?
Send us any stories about the past on Perdido Bay. We will put them in the newsletter.
DEP has issued its "Intent to Issue" the dredge and fill permit for the pipeline construction.
On May 20, 2003, Florida's DEP issued a statement that the state intends to grant a permit to IP (not ECUA) to dig (dredge) and fill wetlands to lay the 48", 10-mile pipeline. At this point, it is possible for affected parties to "challenge" the permit to a state administrative court. We do not think it is productive to challenge this permit, as the wetland rules are very vague. We are going to wait for the operation permit to be issued.