Friends of Perdido Bay
10738 Lillian Highway
Pensacola, FL 32506
Tidings The Newsletter of the Friends of Perdido Bay
November 2009 Volume 22 Number 5 Jackie Lane -Editor
AGAIN, THANK YOU FOR THE CONTRIBUTIONS
Many of you continue to send in donations. Thank you. We are an independent organization and rely entirely on your donations. We have sought help in our legal battles from some of the larger environmental organization such as NRDC, Sierra Club to no avail. We have noticed that many of these larger organizations have much broader interests such as stopping global warming, saving polar bears, etc. While we certainly would support most of their efforts, our interests are more parochial and involve “my backyard” issues.
We are not going to seek corporate sponsors as we believe that it is just too easy to succumb to chasing donations over fighting for the issues we believe need to be addressed on Perdido Bay. I am sure that there are a few big donors out there who would give us grants if we would just give up our pursuit of the paper mill in Cantonment. This will not happen. The paper mill in Cantonment now owned by International Paper has been identified as the major polluter of Perdido Bay and this issue will continue to be aour major focus.
GOVERNMENT’S ASSAULT ON THE ENVIRONMENT
It has been continuous. In subtle and not so subtle ways, our government over the past 30 years has been trying to allow industries to pollute more. Lowering standards is the latest attempt by Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection to allow more pollution . Make no mistake, now that we are in a global economy, certain entities (we are not sure who they are) are trying to lower the environmental standards in the U.S. so that our already-polluted waters will be able to accept more pollution. The mantra behind this theory is that if the U.S. lowers standards then the U.S. will be more competitive with foreign manufacturers and jobs will stay in the U.S. We believe that this theory is false. Many of the foreign factories are newer and more efficient. The loss of industries such as commercial and sport fisheries, tourism, and the devaluation of waterfront properties due to pollution is more economically harmful than the potential saving of a few jobs. But, lowering standards would benefit multinational industries such as International Paper.
In the case of big industries, before you lower environmental standards, their first step is to point the finger away from them and blame other sources. Perdido Bay residents saw this in the 1990's when Dr. Robert Livingston, who was working for Champion Paper, declared in 1992 after a three-year study, that the source of Perdido Bay’s pollution was the Gulf of Mexico. This explanation was so improbable that no one believed him. Our own eyes could see that the Gulf of Mexico was clearer and much less polluted than Perdido Bay, especially the upper bay. DEP biologists went out and collected data to refute this ridiculous theory of Dr. Livingston. But the paper mill went right on polluting.
Even though a Florida/Alabama study in 1989 - 1991 evaluated all sources of pollution into Perdido Bay and decided that eliminating the paper mill pollution was the top priority for correcting problems in Perdido Bay, this did not deter the environmental agencies from again trying to point the finger the other way. In the 1990's environmental agencies went on an “ecosystem management” kick. The agencies identified the usual non-point sources of pollution in Perdido Bay - farm runoff, sediment from unpaved roads, septic tanks, etc. The agencies then tried to get citizens involved in an ecosystem management group called the “Perdido Ecosystem Restoration Group”. Citizens went to many meetings, but mostly the environmental agencies ran the show. The final report of this group came out in 1998 with recommendations for implementing management strategies. But the group had no real authority. The “recommendations” were just that, were never implemented, the paper mill kept right on polluting, and the bay continued to deteriorate.
Since the 1990's, many other approaches have been used to try and allow more pollution by our industries. Environmental agencies and rules have become defanged in a number of ways - under funding of environmental agencies, privatization of environmental studies and clean-ups (hence politicization such as the 18-year Livingston study of Perdido Bay), non-enforcement of environmental rules, replacing seasoned, government, environmental scientists with non-seasoned (and in some cases unqualified) personnel, and lastly, changing environmental rules. Actually changing environmental laws, such as the Clean Water Act, would be a very long and involved process. It is doubtful that changing these laws would ever pass through Congress because there are too many people in the U.S. who care about the environment. So instead of actually changing the laws, the states have tried other means to make rules either ineffective or not applicable.
One of the recent efforts to make the water quality standards less applicable was through the Total Maximum Daily Load Process and the identification of “impaired waters”. According to the Clean Water Act, if the technology -based limits which are imposed on industries do not maintain the minimum water quality standards identified in the Clean Water Act, then Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) calculations must be undertaken to find out how much of certain pollutants a body of water could receive without violation of the minimum water quality standards. The first step was to identify which bodies of water were not meeting the minimum standards and for what pollutants. These bodies of water were classified “impaired” for certain pollutants. The states adopted environmental rules to identify what criteria a body of water must have to be identified as “impaired”. Big industry and big agriculture were all for this exercise because they saw a chance to push a rule for identifying “impaired waters” which was full of loopholes and technicalities which would keep many truly impaired bodies of water from being identified as impaired. The rule pushed by big business in Florida did exactly that. Voila! Many polluted bodies of water are no longer classified as impaired and a total maximum daily load determination does not have to be done. The rule provided an easy way for the state to avoid spending effort and money on studies and forcing polluters to clean up.
Perdido Bay was one of the last bodies of water to be evaluated using the impaired waters rule. In the 1990's, Perdido Bay was oficially identified as impaired because of low dissolved oxygen and too many nutrients. Both problems were caused by huge amounts of nutrient-rich solids which were entering and settling in Perdido Bay from the paper mill. Since 1990's things haven’t changed as far as the paper mill problem. After the impaired waters rule was applied to the Perdido Bay data, the bay was identified as “impaired” for nutrients only. Even though Perdido Bay still has a big problem with low dissolved oxygen, especially in deeper waters, the data which were used to evaluate the dissolved oxygen problem did not show that Perdido Bay was impaired. Several people who worked on this dissolved oxygen evaluation at DEP told me the decision was a political one. The evaluators at DEP simply ignored low dissolved oxygen values, especially in the deeper waters and at the bottom. Since I personally collected about six months of dissolved oxygen values at about eight different stations at all depths in Perdido Bay for the TMDL determination, I know that the low dissolved oxygen values I found in the deeper waters were ignored. I have challenged DEP’s determination that Perdido Bay is not impaired for dissolved oxygen. We will see what happens.
In the meantime, DEP is taking a new tack - changing the designated uses of our water bodies. Water bodies are presently classified into five different types depending on the “designated use” use of the water bodies. Type I is drinking water; Type II is shellfish harvesting water; Type III is water which is swimmable and fishable ; Type IV is agricultural water; and Type IV is industrial-use water. Most water bodies in the state are classified as Type III or swimmable-fishable. Perdido Bay is a Class III water body, even though it does not meet all Class III water standards. Each classification has a set of minimum water quality criteria which the water body must meet or its is impaired. Now the DEP is trying to change these categories byand subdivideing the Class III categorydesignateduse into three subcategories: 1) fishable but human contact restricted, 2) fishable but only incidental human contact recommended, and 3)fishable and OK for full human body contact. The first two subcategory would have lowered standards. So some morning you may wake up and find that the designated use of Perdido Bay is no longer designated swimmable and fishable but “fishable only, human contact is restricted.” Imagine how this would affect your enjoyment of Perdido Bay and the value of your waterfront. Friends of Perdido Bay is working with Linda Young and the Clean Water Network to try to stop this assault on our environment. You can help too. Whether you live in Alabama or Florida, E-mail Governor Charlie Crist and Secretary of DEP Michael Sole and tell them “NO NEW DESIGNATED USES THAT WON’T FULLY PROTECT FISHING AND SWIMMING IN FLORIDA WATERS” . Charlie Crist’s e-mail is Charlie.firstname.lastname@example.org and Michael Sole’s address is email@example.com Even better call, mail, or email your state senator and legislator as well as Christ and Sole.
DO NOT SWIM IN PERDIDO BAY AFTER HEAVY RAINFALL FROM IDA
As Hurricane IDA was approaching passing by Perdido Bay, I went down to the water to see how high the bay was. The water smelled very strongly of sulfur. This sulfur most likely came fromcomes from the paper mill. In preparation for the storm, the mill has most likely lowered its ponds by draining effluent into Elevenmile Creek and Perdido Bay. This effluent is very poorly treated and could be dangerous. The mill drains its ponds in preparation for potential high rainfall. I have often thought that the mill uses these storms as an opportunity to clean out its ponds. Any violations of the permit due to the draining can be attributed to “acts of God” for which the paper mill is not responsible.
A LITTLE FUDGING OF THE DATA?
All industrial dischargers are required to monitor and report the level of different pollutants to the environmental agencies. These reports which are sent in monthly to the environmental agencies are called discharge monitoring reports. The compliance/enforcement section at DEP goes through these monthly reports and notes any exceedances of the permit limits. For years the paper mill in Cantonment has been reporting salts in their effluent at levels which exceed the permit limit, but nothing has happened. These discharge monitoring reports are available to the public and we have often obtained copies of these reports. When the bay began to noticeably go down hill in 2000, I began to look more closely at the discharge monitoring reports. I could look at deposits on my beach and see that the suspended solids were much greater. Even Robert Livingston reported a continual decline in the numbers of living animals in the bay. The monthly operating reports from the paper mill revealed no change from the 1990's. The biological consuming material had not changed. The total suspended solids had not changed. What could be the problem with the bay? We also tested Elevenmile Creek near IP’s discharge site but could not really detect any change. But in 2007, I began to notice a real discrepancy between the saltiness of Elevenmile Creek near the IP discharge site and IP’s reported salt values. IP was reporting a higher salt content than what I was finding in Elevenmile Creek.
I began looking at aerial photographs of IP’s treatment ponds. We also began flying over IP’s treatment ponds. What I noticed was that IP had turned down the level of agitation and aeration in their treatment pond. Less aeration would save IP a lot of money. See the figures below. Since the level of effluent treatment is directly related to the level of aeration in the treatment ponds, IP’s level of treatment must have dropped. IP must be releasing more BOD material. The monthly operating reports which IP sends to DEP did not show an increase in BOD levels. So how can IP be getting the same level of treatment with less aeration? I don’t believe they can. A little number fudging?
IP’s main treatment pond in 1999 IP’s main treatment pond in 2009
IPs main treatment pond- 1999
IPs main treatment pond - 2009