Friends of Perdido Bay
10738 Lillian Highway
Pensacola, FL 32506
Tidings The Newsletter of the Friends of Perdido Bay
October 2004 Volume 17 Number 5 Jackie Lane -Editor
This is the Alamo Folks. New Draft Permit and Consent Order allow IP to violate state
standards for 9 more years.
DEP issued the draft (preliminary) permit for IP with related documents two weeks before Hurricane Ivan. Public comment on this permit is scheduled for October 13 from 6 to 9 PM in the Pensacola High School Auditorium, 500 West Maxwell Street, Pensacola, FL 32501. Before the public comment period, DEP will hold an informal poster session with questions and answers from 4 to 5:30 PM. Plan to come, make comments, and show the community we care about our bay. Comments will be limited to 3 to 5 minutes. If you can not come, DEP will be accepting written comments until October 20, 2004. Send your written comments to: Bill Armstrong, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 160 Government Center, Pensacola, FL 32501. Later in this newsletter we will review the draft permit and consent order so that you will know something about the draft permit.
This and That With a Message About Perdido Bay by Col. James D. Partridge, USAF Ret. and Friends of Perdido Bay Board Member
Hurricane Ivan has come and gone on Perdido Bay. In its wake, it has left me without a wharf, with holes in our roof, water damage inside, siding missing, etc., etc. Our area on the bay looks like God played fiddlesticks with the trees. This is all true of my neighbors homes-some have more damage than others; but all have damage; all are without power; and all went right to work cleaning up their mess and helping their neighbors. It seems we work much better with adversity, than we do under comfortable circumstances. My wife and I evacuated and returned the day after the storm. It was not easy getting through the down power lines, trees and debris that was in the road. Some of the neighbors who stayed through the storm must have come out of their homes with chain saws running because most of the down trees into our home were cleared. It was as if you kicked an ant hill; they come out, looked around, got a little watery eyed for a minute, shook off the shock, and went to work putting their lives back together. We may not be as challenged as the thirty generation but we are made from the same stuff.
Now for the message-As I sit at my desk looking out at the bay, I see remains of my wharf; I see parts of someone's wharf floating next to mine; there are trees and limbs that have formed islands in the bay, and there is this dirty white foam line passing between my pilings. Our bay is dirty, black and polluted from storm run off and hurricane Ivan-this is nature; in time, it will clean itself. But, that dirty white foam is not a natural process-that foam is pollution, it is effluent from the International Paper Mill plant in Cantonment, Florida. It contains chemicals that have killed the habitat in Eleven Mile Creek, killed the grass beds in the entire bay and pretty much decimated the shellfish in the upper bay. This is not conjecture-they know it, I know it, the scientists know it, and so does the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. There have been too many studies for people to not be aware of the Perdido Bay problems. The foam was snaking its way down the bay before the storm, it was there the day after the storm, and it has been there for the last sixty years. We worry about a beach mouse and let an entire ecosystem go to hell. What amazes me is how people can come together in a disaster but if we are not directly affected-we let someone else work the problem. If we wake up tomorrow and the bay is orange-that would "kick the ant hill". We would have more help than we need to fix the problem. Well, neighbors, the bay is orange - we need your help. There is a public meeting on Wednesday, October 13, 2004 at 4:00P.M. to 9:00 P.M. at the Pensacola High School Auditorium, 500 West Maxwell Street. The subject is IP's draft Wastewater Permit. The Permit will allow IP to operate and set discharge limits into Perdido Bay. We are talking large numbers here-like 40+ million gallons per day in cooperation with Escambia County Utilities Authority (ECUA). ECUA also want to contribute to this waste.
Included in the draft Wastewater Permit is IP's proposed solution to their pollution problem. That is, to discharge into a "wetland" near Eleven Mile Creek. Mind you, this is an "experimental" wetland. I flew airplanes for a living, we always tested them before we put them into production. I suspect it would be prudent to forget the permit until we know how the system works.
By the way, the draft permit is 244-that is two hundred and forty-four pages long. That makes me nervous.
It is disgusting
This is my impression of the "permit" that DEP is trying to give to IP. But lets go back. The paper mill in Cantonment Florida has never really been able to meet environmental standards. The environmental agencies in Florida and Alabama have known this. The EPA has known this. But they have allowed this paper mill to degrade our bay because of the economic impact of the paper mill on this area. All the paper mill has to say is - jobs- and they are exempt from meeting standards. But there is a down side to this pollution. Jobs are lost and economic use of Perdido Bay for recreation is just about nil. So after years and years of this degradation, it is time that it ends. The pipeline and wetlands plan that IP has put forth and the permit that DEP is trying to issue will only allow the pollution to continue.
The important parts of this permitting process are the draft permit which establishes limits and testing procedures for operating the wastewater treatment system and the IP industrial land fill. The draft permit also gives testing protocol for different process streams before entering the wastewater system. The Consent Order is an agreement between the DEP and IP to do certain things by a certain time, i.e., complete improvements to the wastewater system, build a pipeline, etc. The draft Consent Order also contains interim limits and exceptions which are not contained in the draft permit.
Lets look at some of the particulars of the draft permit and consent order. The permit allows IP to continue to discharge to Eleven Mile Creek until the pipeline/wetland construction project is finished. And after that, IP is only allowed to discharge to Eleven Mile Creek in an emergency situation (emergency is not defined). The permit also says that discharge from this outfall (001) will not result in a "violation of applicable water quality standards". Basically the permit has to say this because the Clean Water Act prohibits a permit from being issued "when the imposition of conditions cannot ensure compliance with the applicable water quality requirements of all affected States" CFR 40-122.4(d). While the draft permit may say this, the Consent Order does not. The Consent Order only requires IP to be in compliance with Water Quality Standards within 108 months from the effective date of the Consent Order. That is nine (9) years after the Consent Order is issued, IP must comply with state standards. After eight years (8), IP may petition the Department for an order granting alternative water quality criteria. After eight (8) years, IP must submit their report of their Findings of No Significant Adverse Impact. In other words, IP is allowed to degrade our bay and the land over which the effluent is disposed for 8 years before any report is due. This is an outrage. It is obvious that DEP (and EPA) cares little about the environment.
The Interim Discharge limits that the Consent Order allows will result in water quality violations and continual degradation of Perdido Bay. Remember, this effluent is still going into Eleven Mile Creek for the first two years. This is in direct violation of Florida's Antidegredation Rule (Florida Administrative Code 62-302.300) and the Clean Water Act (Code of Federal Regulations 40-125.62). The daily maximum BOD that the Consent Order allows is 10,200 pounds per day. The 1989 state permit allowed a daily maximum of 6,885 pounds per day. So the New permit is allowing a 48% increase in maximum BOD. The new permit calls for no reductions in Total Suspended Solids compared to the '89 permit - 8,000 pounds per day in the summer and 11,600 pounds per day in the winter with a daily maximum of 27,000 pounds per day (that is 13 1/2 tons per day). Folks, look at these numbers. How can these levels of discharge not cause damage. In the addition, IP does not have to meet a bunch of other state standards - unionized ammonia, pH, conductivity, nitrogen, color, turbidity.
One very curious part of the "relief" mechanisms that the Consent Order contains is a statement in 9. (a) which gives IP "relief" from using the Eleven Mile Creek outfall only in emergency. According to the draft permit, after building the pipeline and wetlands, IP can only use the Eleven Mile Creek outfall in an emergency situation. But the Consent Order contradicts this statement in the permit.
There is also another curious statement in the Consent Order. Page 7 of the Consent Order says "In the event ECUA provides written notice to the respondent (IP), or the Department, that it will no longer participate in the project as contemplated above,....". Is there a possibility that ECUA may back out after IP gets their permit? I wouldn't doubt that ECUA would want to. After all, how can ECUA get a permit for discharging effluent into Perdido Bay when Perdido Bay is already degraded? Another discharger, more pollutants. No way. Is this pipeline/wetland plan just a sham to allow IP to get their permit and then, viola, IP remains in the Creek?
Once IP upgrades their wastewater treatment system and begins discharge to the wetlands, (after two to three years) they are supposed to meet state standards at a new discharge point - #003. But again, the Consent Order allows IP to violate state standards for at least 9 years. These standards which IP is going to be allowed to violate are: Specific Conductance -salt, pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, and color. The daily maximum value for BOD in summer drop to 9,000 pounds/day and the Total Suspended Solids drops to 16,000 pounds per day. Is this an improvement?
This permit and Consent Order are not going to protect Perdido Bay. The limits for Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) and Total Suspended Solids (TSS) are much too high to improve the water quality in Perdido Bay. These limits are the same limits that the paper mill has had for the past 20 years, even with the improvements to their wastewater treatment plant. Running the effluent through a wetland or a land disposal site will really not do very much for BOD, TSS, pH, color or salts. Paper mill effluent takes a long time to degrade. The BOD and TSS numbers in the permit are based on a 5-day test. However even after 120 days, paper mill effluent is still not totally degraded and continues to remove oxygen. EPA tests have shown that, based on a 120-day test, paper mill effluent consumes 9 times as much oxygen as reported using a 5-day test. A three-day trip (estimated time for the effluent to travel overland) will do very little to remove the oxygen consuming chemicals in paper mill effluent.
Summary of Problems in Permit and Consent Order
Plan to come to the October 13th hearing at Pensacola High School or send comments on this permit to Bill Armstrong at DEP, 160 Government Center, Pensacola, FL 32501 by October 20th.
If you wish to be generous in this very difficult time, Friends of Perdido Bay is accepting contributions for the legal and scientific fight.