Friends of Perdido Bay
10738 Lillian Highway
Pensacola, FL 32506
Tidings The Newsletter of the Friends of Perdido Bay
June 2004 Volume 17 Number 3 Jackie Lane -Editor
This summer we hope to enjoy our bay. The water has been better than last year. Still, water with filaments of scum algae floating in it is not inviting for recreation and shows that the 50 years of pollution of the bay by the paper mill continues, with or without rain. Where we live in the upper part of Perdido Bay, a lack of rain usually produces dark, smelly, turbid water. This is due to the paper mill wastes coming into this part of the bay and not being diluted sufficiently by flow from the Perdido River. The pollution just builds up in the bay, and bacteria feed off the paper mill wastes. With rain, the paper mill wastes are diluted more but the rain also washes sludges out of paper mill ponds. The increase in effluent flow also decreases the time the paper mill effluent is treated in their ponds. A 1999 Wastewater System Storm Analysis done for Champion showed that when the paper mill's effluent reached 40 to 60 Million Gallons per Day (MGD), the mill would exceed its BOD limit and their solids would go up about 3 times (although it would be hard to exceed their daily limit of 27,000 pounds per day). Another report from the paper mill showed that between February 1996 and May 1998, the volume of paper mill effluent exceeded 40 MGD, 57 times. These exceedances were not correlated with rainfall amounts.
Another hazard to swimming caused by the paper mill may be spills of chemicals and fuel oil. In IP's 2002 application for an operating permit, IP listed significant spills of fuel oil (40,000 gallons in 1999, 400 gallons in 2001), diesel fuel (100 gallons in 1999), and sodium chlorate (60,000 pounds in 2002). Unknowingly, people may be swimming in a chemical spill. Not a nice thought.
In general, swimming may not be safe after heavy rains. Rains wash all types of pollution from land (including animal excrement) into our water ways. Through our bacteria sampling, we are trying to give you a better picture of the safety of swimming.
Not A Rosy Picture
We recently received the International Paper Corporation Annual Report. The earnings for 2003 were $384 million as compared with earnings in 2002 of $540 million. In spite of the lower earnings, IP made money in 2003 but lost money in 2002. The reason IP made money in 2003 on lower earnings as compared to 2002 was because of cost cutting. We wonder if the brown water we saw last summer was, in part, due to IP's cost cutting. In the past, the paper mill has told us that they spend $15,00 per day on a color-removal chemical. Cutting back on the use of this chemical would certainly help save IP money. Amazingly, IP did not report any violations last summer. We called the Florida DEP several times to report brown water, etc. No response from them. We send this newsletter to the environmental investigator for David Whetstone, Baldwin County's District Attorney. No response from that side either. So we can only surmise that International Paper and their friends in the chemical and timber industries have friends in high places.
What does the future hold for the IP mill in Cantonment? The IP mill in Cantonment produces uncoated papers and market pulp. Operating profits for the uncoated paper section of IP declined 25% in 2003 when compared with 2002. "In addition to the softer pricing and lower shipments, the business was adversely impacted by higher energy and wood costs in 2003 compared with 2002. Partially offsetting these unfavorable impacts were continued improvements in mill operations and lower overhead expenses" Page 16; IP 2003 Annual Report. IP has raised the price of its copy papers, but whether or not this will increase profits will probably depend on the general economy. IP's plans to import wood chips from Brazil may help stabilize (or lower) wood costs. But there is still no indication of a location for bringing in wood chips from Brazil for the local mill.
The Market Pulp sales were higher in 2003. The inventory of market pulp decreased by 2% in 2003 due to hardwood shortages.
The overall outlook for the company is not good. In the later part of 2003, IP's long-term credit rating was changed from BBB (stable outlook) to BBB (negative outlook) by Standard and Poor. At the same time, IP's short-term credit rating was downgraded to A-3 by Standard and Poor. This means that if IP wants to borrow money, they will have to pay a higher rate of interest to investors because the investment is riskier.
Finances of IP should be considered in the plan to pipe IP effluent to an overland disposal site. IP is not paying for construction of the pipeline. The state of Florida is loaning our public utility, ECUA, the money (at low interest rates) to build the pipeline and then IP will pay ECUA for the use of the pipeline. IP, for their part of the plan, is upgrading their wastewater treatment system at an estimated cost of $40 million and giving land to ECUA to build a wastewater treatment plant on their Cantonment, Florida property. If you were a company facing tough times would you invest this type of capital in a mill? I wouldn't. Even though IP has said that their board of directors approved the expenditure of this money, maybe they really did not intend to spend this money. Maybe they figured we would challenge the permit and hold up the project long enough so that they could run the mill to the end of its life. Well, we intend to challenge the permit, because we don't want a pipeline bringing 40 million gallons a day(MGD) of pollution into Perdido Bay for future generations. So if IP intended us to hold up the whole project, we are doing a good job.
But Sewage is Coming
How do I know that sewage is coming? Look at the development on Perdido Key. Condos are sprouting up everywhere. Buildings are being torn down so that high rise condominiums can be built. Every time a 50 unit condo goes in, that means that 15,000 more gallons of sewage a day is headed our way (assuming 3 people per condo and 100 gallons/per person per day of sewage). The main sewage line from Perdido Key runs to Bayou Marcus Sewage Treatment Plant which discharges into wetlands surrounding Perdido Bay. The Bayou Marcus plant is currently treating about half (4.2 MGD) its permitted amount. The treatment is very high quality. Even with the summer tourists, the discharge only goes up about 200,000 gallons a day. But do we want much more sewage coming into our watershed? When all those condos are occupied will the sewer line be big enough to carry all the effluent? Recently ECUA replaced the old sewer lines coming into the Bayou Marcus Treatment Plant with 42" pipes. Many of you may have seen this project going in at the entrance to the Bayou Marcus Plant.
There should be sufficient water to support growth on Perdido Key. ECUA, at the rate payers expense, put in a 24" main water line all the way from the Avondale section of Pensacola to the Perdido Key.
Redirecting sewage from Escambia and Pensacola Bay into Perdido Bay's watershed is being considered by others. In a discussion with Dr Larry Walker, a political science professor from UWF who is running for ECUA's Board of Directors from District 5 (not our district), he is proposing closing the downtown sewage plant and directing all that sewage to Cantonment and then to Perdido Bay. I don't think I will vote for that guy. He indicated that the upper class people on Escambia Bay don't want the sewage in their bay. He inferred that we poor souls on Perdido Bay couldn't muster the resources to fight the transfer of sewage. I think he is wrong. But we will watch this carefully.
And How is that Permit Coming ?
That permit is the IP permit. According to DEP, there are still some issues to be solved. One issue that was mentioned in our last newsletter was the issue of excluding the public from the two fishing lakes - Tee and Wicker Lakes, because these lakes are included in the discharge area for the IP effluent. Florida's rule for experimental use of wetlands prohibits public access to the discharge areas. IP has submitted a Petition for a permanent waiver from these sections of the rule which prohibits access. We have not read the petition, but we think they are still a long way from getting a permit to operate using an overland disposal. So a waiver doesn't seem too important at this time. There are two permits involved - the operation permit and the permit for dredging and filling to build the pipeline. The dredge and fill permit is complete but has not been formally issued. DEP says that they are not going to issue the dredge and fill permit until the operation permit is complete.
The operating permit for IP is the big one. We think that the science being used to support a permit is faulty, especially Dr. Livingston's science. And we also think that DEP's regulatory history for the paper mill is terrible. So we wait. But we want everyone to remember what Dr. Livingston, in one of his rare moments of candor wrote in August 2000:
More False PR
Back in 1995 when Champion converted to 100% chlorine dioxide bleaching, we were told that our bay would get better. But my data and research on Perdido Bay told me otherwise. I had been studying the little olive snail which used to live in Perdido Bay (but lives here no longer). The snails were very abundant on reeds, many vertical structures at the tide line, and on submerged grass bed fronds. Since the mid 1980's, I had been growing scum algae, the food of the snails, on glass slides that I had mounted in the water. I would then do experiments with the snails and the glass slides. About 1993, I noticed that I was having a difficult time growing the scum algae. I had to leave the slides in the water longer and the algae was not the same. By 1995, my attempts to grow the algae were futile. I also noticed that the numbers of snails were decreasing. By 2000, there were no snails to be found in this upper part of Perdido nor were there any grassbeds left. Reeds and vegetation which grew partially submerged or even mostly out of water also died. The island by the pilings in Millview used to be covered in scrubby vegetation. Today all vegetation is gone and you can not see the island. Grassbeds which had existed on the Alabama shoreline, south of the Perdido River, for at least 30 years, died. Obviously, something has happened.
In the mid 1990's when I noticed the scum algae disappearing I began to investigate chlorine dioxide bleaching. Chlorine dioxide is generated at the paper mill using sodium chlorate. I assumed that the generator for making the chlorine dioxide was not 100% efficient. So I sent samples of Eleven Mile Creek water to a testing lab. Yes, both chlorate and chlorine dioxide were present. I ran a library search of chlorate and found that it is a potent herbicide. Chlorine dioxide is a potent disinfectant and can also be mistakenly measured as oxygen with an oxygen meter. Chlorate can also inhibit the uptake of nitrogen by bacteria, thereby reducing the effectiveness of IP's wastewater treatment system. I began to look at the research which the paper companies gave to the environmental agencies to justify the use of chlorine dioxide. The paper mill research also showed detrimental effects on algae. However the paper mill researcher contacted me and told me the effects were not significant. I could not really argue since I did not have his data. But it was obvious to me that the chlorine dioxide bleaching chemicals were having a very detrimental effect in the bay. When confronted with this problem, the paper industry denied all of it. The thing is - the paper industry does not even have to test for chlorate, chlorine dioxide, peroxide or even chlorine. Chlorine is another chemical we found at low levels in Eleven Mile Creek and is a by-product of the chlorine dioxide system. I am sure the EPA is aware of the problem. EPA scientists were present when the chlorine dioxide bleaching was begun. Matter of fact, they published papers about the proliferation of grassbeds in Perdido Bay., making it appear as if chlorine dioxide did no harm at all. Well, grassbeds were here for a while, until 2000 when everything died. The whole story is very disturbing because it means the government will deceive the public for the good of big business or a big political donor. Your tax dollars are used to deceive you. Not a pretty picture at all.