Friends of Perdido Bay
10738 Lillian Highway
Pensacola, FL 32506
Tidings The Newsletter of the Friends of Perdido Bay
June 2005 Volume 18 Number 3 Jackie Lane -Editor
Thanks for the support
The flyer which we sent out detailing the pitfalls of the IP plan to pipe effluent to a disposal area draining into Perdido Bay produced great response. Thank you. We had over 150 people who sent donations of all types. Every little bit helps. We hope that the donations finally produce some results like a clean bay. What are we going to do with the money? Two things - keep you informed and fight the permit for the paper mill.
Fighting the Permit
Ever wonder why some of the most important issues are decided in the quietest ways? It is because our public officials do not want public discussion. Decisions are made based on expediency and what powerful special interests want. Some people in high places have decided that Perdido Bay is going to be the receiving waters for paper mill effluent come hell or high water (we have had both on Perdido Bay). Please don't muddy that decision with facts or debate. So here we are, trying to fight a permit which should never have been issued. There has been no public debate about the virtues or lack thereof of this project. There was a public hearing three weeks after Hurricane Ivan hit us. IP had an orchestrated turnout but very few people addressed the limits or issues in the permit. My question is - if this plan is so great, why are the limits in the permit so bad?
So Friends of Perdido Bay is going to an administrative hearing on the permit. So are four of our five children who obviously are affected parties, my husband, and myself. Dr Robert Austin who lives in La Paz has also petitioned for an administrative hearing. Friends have hired two administrative attorneys. The hearing is currently scheduled to begin September 12 at 12:30 PM in Pensacola. Our website has a link to the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) website. Once you get to get to the DOAH website, at the top of the page you will see "Quick docket". Type 05-1609 which is the case number assigned to Mellita Lane, one of the petitioners in this case. Friends of Perdido Bay's docket number is 05-1981. This will list the docket or all the papers filed so far in this administrative action. There has been a lot of action.
There has been some discussion that administrative hearings are not fair. At these hearings, evidence is presented, just like in any other civil action, before a judge, who is called an administrative law judge. While the administrative law judge is hired by the State of Florida and as such is subject to politics, we can only hope that some fairness prevails. One interesting aspect is that we can go through their documents, subpoena their witnesses, and maybe get some answers to questions we have had for several years. We are hopeful that once the judge hears all our evidence, he will decide in our favor. We are asking that this permit be denied. IP won't shut down. They will simply go back to the drawing boards and come up with a new, and hopefully better, plan.
In 1987, the Florida DEP intended to issue a permit to then owner of the paper mill Champion. The permit was challenged by Perdido Bay Environmental Association. Based on testimony during depositions before the hearing, it became obvious that the paper mill could not meet standards in Elevenmile Creek. The Florida environmental agency at that time, DER, withdrew the permit and replaced it with a Temporary Operating Permit and Consent Order. Perdido Bay Environmental Association then went to a hearing on the Temporary Operating Permit and Consent Order. The judge allowed the Temporary Operating permit and Consent Order to go through, saying that Champion needed some time to clean-up. The judge gave the paper mill 5 years (until December 1994) to comply with Florida law. Almost eleven years later, the paper mill still has not complied, and the old Consent Order was never enforced. This should make good evidence for historical non-compliance at the up coming hearing.
Looking for Witnesses
We are looking for people who can testify at the hearing. If you remember Perdido Bay or Elevenmile Creek before the paper mill started dumping, please call us - 850-453-5488.
Also if you have any expertise in the field of public health such as bacterial contamination or exposure to toxic chemicals such as dioxin or arsenic, please give us a call - 850-453-5488. Or if you can testify about the harmful effects of paper mill effluent on the environment, please give us a call.
We may be able to use you at the hearing in September.
Would you give a permit to a facility if you could not be given any reasonable assurance that the project was going to work? How about a 50% - 50% chance that the project would work? Well folks, IP has provided no assurances that the overland disposal plan is NOT going to harm the disposal ecosystem. We think and will argue at the hearing that this project has a very good chance of contaminating the disposal site. How long will it take the paper mill sludges which are contaminated with dioxin, heavy metals and PCB's to turn the disposal site into a toxic waste site? Maybe until the first heavy rain, at which time they will then end up in Perdido Bay. Well, the draft permit which DEP is trying to issue to IP has "Contingency Plans" for all scenarios.
The "Contingency Plan" which is part of the draft permit was written by NSAI. NASI stands for National Air and Stream Improvement Council. This sounds like a real environmentally great group. Right? But it isn't. This group is the scientific arm of the paper industry which tries to "justify" the paper mill pollution. Over the years I have read several of their "scientific" papers. The paper industry hands this junk science to regulatory agencies as scientific justification for their harmful activities. No one at the regulatory agencies seems to read this stuff. I read one of these bogus reports. It was entitled "Fate of Paper mill Biosolids in the Chowan River". The study was done in a river in North Carolina. The paper industry "scientists" placed sediments traps at various distances from the outfall of a paper mill. The aim of the study was to measure the amount of deposition of the biosolids. Remember paper mills put out huge amounts of organic, slowly degrading solids. Unfortunately, some of the sediment traps got upset or lost. Some filled up with sand. The end result of the study was that no results could be determined. This paper was used as "scientific" justification for the dumping of these solids. Certainly very few politicians read beyond the title of the report.
This is the same group which has written the "Contingency Plan" for the Disposal (they call it a wetland) area in the IP draft permit. This "Contingency Plan" is really something. Among the alternatives (Alternative c) is a diversion pipeline/canal for up to the entire flow to lower Elevenmile Creek and/or Perdido Bay. How much do you want to bet that this option will be the one chosen?
You may ask, why not just stay in Elevenmile Creek? They cannot, because there are just too many studies which show that at their current level of production and discharge, Elevenmile Creek, will be harmed. However, if production at the mill drops, it may be possible to remain in Elevenmile Creek.
Lets not Take Our Eyes Off Domestic Sewage
While the paper mill is trying to get a permit to pollute our bay, there are some other troubling prospects looming on the horizon. Recently I read in the Pensacola News Journal where ECUA was trying to get some money to divert up to 4 million gallons per day of domestic wastewater from the Main Street Wastewater Treatment Plant to the Bayou Marcus Plant. Bayou Marcus discharges into wetlands surrounding Perdido Bay. These wetlands are true "low-energy" wetlands, as opposed to the 60 foot drop in the elevation in the "IP" wetlands. Friends of Perdido Bay has tested the waters coming out of the Bayou Marcus wetlands. The water along the shoreline of the Bayou Marcus wetlands was actually lower in nutrients than water further out in Perdido Bay. So we consider the Bayou Marcus wastewater plant to not be much of a contributor to Perdido Bay's pollution problem. However 4 million more gallons will double the discharge which is now coming out of the plant. Last month the average discharge from the plant was 5.25 million gallons per day. If you add 4 million more gallons a day, the permit limit of 8.2 million gallons per day would be exceeded. The Bayou Marcus plant would have to be enlarged to accommodate more sewage. According to ECUA, there is no room to enlarge the Bayou Marcus Plant. Wetlands start five feet beyond the perimeter of the current plant, and wetland filling is not a good thing.
Another impediment to adding 4 more million gallons a day is the necessity of opening up more additional wetlands for disposal. ECUA owns all the wetlands (300 + acres) to the south of the Bayou Marcus plant. The additional effluent would have to be piped under Bayou Marcus Creek and boardwalks built to disperse the effluent to the wetlands. This would require major capital outlays. Eventually, as this area develops, this southern wetland will likely be used. But now the bottom line is - unless there is some crazy political shenanigans, it is unlikely that 4 million more gallons will come this way. But we will be there to fight the permits.
Over on the other side of the bay in Baldwin County, there have been a few treatment plant upsets. The Spanish Cove Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is owned by a private individual, had an overflow on June 11th . According to the Baldwin County Health Department, the rains during Tropical Storm Arleen caused a large increase in the amount of water going into the treatment plant. This caused the plant to overflow. The owner of the plant has hired consultants to find where all the extra water is coming from so that the problem can be prevented. Undoubtably this "spill" caused a spike in the bacteria going into Perdido Bay.
The Baldwin County Health Department monitors bacteria counts at several places in Perdido Bay, usually on a weekly or twice a week basis in the summer,. The places are: Kee Ave. (above 98 bridge), KOA (below 98 bridge), Pirates Cove, Camp Dixie, Escambia Ave., Bear Point, and Orange Beach Waterfront Park At the beginning of June, a swimming advisory was posted for KOA when the bacteria count was high. By the next week the count had dropped. The Baldwin County Health Department advises not to swim after a heavy rain due to the "washing" effect of the rains. The bacteria counts are posted on ADEM's website - http://www.adem.state.al.us/FieldOps/Monitoring/BeachMonitoring.htm.
The bacteria which the Health Department tests for is called Enterococcus. This bacteria is found in the intestines of warm-blooded animals and does not cause disease. However it is an indicator of fecal contamination, from humans and other warm-blooded animals (cows, birds). The test used for Enterococcus is different than the test used for fecal coliform. Remember paper mill effluent, which is high in organic material, causes the growth of a bacteria called Klebsiella. Klebsiella, which can cause disease, would not be measured in the test for Enterococcus.
Class Action Lawsuit coming up?
Maybe. Some of you may have been at the meeting on May 19th which had been called by the law firm of McKenzie, Taylor, & Zarzaur. When contacted about two weeks ago, Phillip Warren, who is an associate in the firm, told me that Mr. McKenzie has decided to join with the Levin Papantonio Firm in pursuing the class action lawsuit. Mr Warren said that by the end of June (this year ?), a motion will be filed for class certification. Remember folks, this law suit was originally filed in 2000. It appears to me that there has been a lot of foot dragging. It makes you wonder if there is another agenda out there.