Friends of Perdido Bay
10738 Lillian Highway
Pensacola, FL 32506
Tidings The Newsletter of the Friends of Perdido Bay
October 2007 Volume 20 Number 5 Jackie Lane -Editor
GENERAL MEETING - OCTOBER 18, 2007
Friends of Perdido Bay needs some feed-back from our members. At least once a year we try to have a general meeting so we can hear your ideas about what we should be doing and where we should go. Although we have stopped (or stalled?) the pipeline to Perdido Bay, we are still left with a polluted bay. Come to the general meeting at the Lillian Community Club on October 18 beginning at 7:00 PM. We need your ideas.
Friends of Perdido Bay Board
People might wonder who governs Friends of Perdido Bay. There is a governing board of directors. At present, there are seven board members - four from Florida and three from Alabama. We meet the second Saturday of every even month. The Board meets for several hours and discusses what we should do. We vote on motions and most of the time we have a quorum. It is all pretty amicable - no fights.
Status of the IP permit
In the last newsletter in August, we announced that the state of Florida had agreed with the administrative law judge’s recommedation to deny the permit for IP to build a pipeline and wetland treatment. However, Florida has issued a “stay” of the execution of the denial while IP appeals the DEP’s order. The appeals process can take a year - sometimes more. This means IP is still discharging into Eleven mile Creek and continuing as usual. IP is violating Florida water standards in Eleven mile Creek but there have been no fines, etc. According to Bill Evans, the permitting engineer down in DEP’s office in Pensacola, the Consent Order issued in 1989 allows IP to violate any and all standards in Eleven Mile Creek (or to rephrase this - the Consent Order relieves IP from having to meet any standards in Eleven Mile Creek). We do not agree with this but DEP refused a formal request to clarify what the 1989 Consent Order allows.
In the meantime, IP has gone ahead with their conversion to linear board (brown cardboard) production. They are supposedly using 100% pine instead of hardwoods. In the news release put out by IP, they indicated that they are going to ramp up production of linear board to 50 to 60 % capacity in the fourth quarter. Remember they plan to go to 2,500 air dried tons of pulp per day when they reach full capacity. This is up from a maximum of 1,600 air dried tons per day which they were producing when making bleached paper. So if you think the bay looks bad now, when IP reaches their maximum production of 2,500 the bay should really be terrible. For the past three weeks, the bay has been extremely turbid. In the evening and morning when the water is still, the bottom near the beach is covered in black ooze. You can’t see the sand. It is doubtful the environmental agencies will do anything about this situation.
Does IP have a permit? According to the Clean Water Act, a permit does not expire until the environmental agency issues (or denies) a new permit if a timely application was made. Way back in 1994, IP’s successor, Champion, made a timely application for a new permit. For 10 years, the DEP kept saying that the permit application was not complete. The DEP kept asking for more information, asking for clarification. Now that the new permit has been denied, the stay of execution basically allows IP to continue to operate under their old permit. And is it ever an old permit. In 1995, Florida’s 1989 permit was combined with a federal permit issued in 1983 to the old owners of the mill - St. Regis. So what we have now is a combined 1983/1989 temporary operating permit. According to Florida rules, the most stringent conditions in either permit are the ones which apply. But who plays by the rules?
In the meantime, Friends of Perdido Bay is planning some testing in Eleven mile Creek to see just how bad it is. The color of the creek is black. IP is meeting with DEP and discussing what they can do to try and solve the problems with the wetland permit application and apply for a new permit. Now that IP is no longer doing much, if any bleaching, IP could go to 100% recycling of their effluent. In other words, they wouldn’t have to pump 25 million gallons of water a day out of the ground, only enough to replenish the water which they evaporate. But we will see what happens next. It is very interesting to me to see what will happen.
Perdido Bay certainly would appear to be ripe for a lawsuit. The destruction of the bay is apparent to most people. There is only one major discharger in this bay. The administrative law judge said he believed our stories of nuisance caused by the paper mill. Yet, the one major lawsuit (Ester’s suit) which was brought by some high powered plaintiff’s attorneys, is being dropped. After the judge ruled that the action could not proceed as a “class action”, the plaintiff’s (our) attorneys decided not to pursue the case further. It appears that we have damages to our property but not enough political pull to do anything about it.
A draft permit for Bayou Marcus Wastewater Treatment Plant
While we have been busy dealing with the International Paper permit problem, we have not totally ignored the domestic wastewater plant which discharges to wetlands surrounding Perdido Bay. The Bayou Marcus domestic wastewater plant is a pretty good neighbor. They discharge a relatively clean effluent into wetlands. The drought these past few years has perhaps masked any problems which this wetland discharger causes (or could cause) in Perdido Bay. But on the whole, the concept of polishing a clean domestic effluent in wetlands appears to be working. Right now the Bayou Marcus plant is treating approximately 5 million gallons of effluent a day. This effluent is being discharged to roughly half of the 900 acres of wetlands surrounding the domestic wastewater plant. Originally the Bayou Marcus plant was permitted to treat 8.2 million gallons of effluent per day and discharge the effluent to two wetland parcels north and south of the facility. So far the owners of the plant, ECUA, have only opened up the north wetland parcel for discharge.
The Bayou Marcus domestic plant was enlarged and upgraded from the old treatment plant called Avondale. I think that when the expansion was considered for Avondale, many people believed that Perdido Key was headed for high growth and development. Sewage from Perdido Key was going to come to the new Bayou Marcus plant. But Hurricane Ivan, insurance, the beach mouse, and now invalidating a bond to pay to four-lane Perdido Key drive has really put a crimp in development on the key. The expected growth for Perdido Key has not occurred and Bayou Marcus treatment plant is still about only at half capacity.
To help use the capacity and pay for the plant, the Navy at Sherman Field is going to send its wastewater to Bayou Marcus. The Navy had plans to upgrade their wastewater plant at Sherman Field and spray it on the golf course. The Navy produces about one million gallons a day of wastewater. Saufley Field another Navy base which used to discharge directly to Perdido Bay, hooked on to Bayou Marcus several years ago.
Several weeks ago I was driving down Mobile Highway toward Beulah when I saw a 24" black pipe being installed under Mobile Highway. I became concerned that maybe, some of International Paper’s effluent was being transported to the Bayou Marcus plant for treatment. I contacted ECUA who told me it was their pipeline and they were using the pipeline to bring water from water wells on Nine mile Road to southwest Escambia County. Apparently, ECUA is anticipating growth in this area - maybe especially on Perdido Key. But as discussed above, growth on Perdido Key has stalled so ECUA is going to be left with a lot of water capacity.
If you want to read the draft permit which DEP plans to issue to ECUA for the Bayou Marcus Plant, the draft permit is online at http://appprod.dep.state.fl.us/nwu/Bayou_Marcus_FL0031801_003_Draft_Permit.pdf
We will put this address on our website - www.friendsofperdidobay.com
Clam Tissue dioxin studies
In our last newsletter we reported on the dioxin/PCP and heavy metal study which was done on mullet and bass in Perdido River by University of West Florida researchers. Earlier, UWF had done studies on blue crabs and oysters in Escambia Bay and blue crabs in Perdido Bay. UWF researchers could not find oysters in Perdido Bay. Oysters should thrive in Perdido Bay but there is something in paper mill effluent which is harmful to oysters. Dr. Livingston, IP’s consultant, found that oysters grew very fast in Perdido Bay for awhile but then died. Several other scientific hacks of the paper industry claimed it was the sudden bouts of fresh water which killed the oysters. Unfortunately with the drought these past two years, excessive bouts of fresh water can’t be used to explain why we don’t have oysters in Perdido Bay, at least the Upper bay. Perdido Bay does have clams called Rangia - or at least it used to. Where we live in Upper Perdido Bay, the bottom used to be paved with clams. There were so many clams in the sand that it was hard to walk. The clams were all killed when Champion pulled the weirs on their ponds in 1986. Then the clams came back. Then all the clams and everything else died in 2000 when IP took over the mill. Rangia clams have made a slight comeback at our beach, but nothing like in the early 1980's. Since we have no oysters to analyze, Friends of Perdido Bay decided to analyze clams for dioxins, PCB’s and several heavy metals. The clams were collected in mid-August before the water got so turbid. It took about three hours to collect 20 3-year old clams. It used to take three minutes to collect this many clams, but the clams are scarce. The clams were allowed to “clean-out” over night and then the meat was dissected out and sent to labs for analysis.
The results indicated that levels of dioxins/PCP’s in clams were above levels which were safe to eat. Using the assessment of tissue contaminate levels calculated by UWF researchers for shellfish in Florida, levels of dioxin/PCPs over 0.098 picograms/gram wet tissue are considered a public health concern. Levels of dioxin/PCP’s in Rangia clams were 0.551 picograms/gram wet clam tissue. This is 5 times the safe level. While levels of dioxins/PCP in clams from Perdido Bay are not quite as bad as some oysters from Escambia Bay, levels indicate the clams are not safe to eat.
Some of the heavy metals found in the Perdido Bay clams were very high, especially arsenic. Arsenic was 2.0 milligrams/kilogram wet weight. This level of arsenic is twice the safe level calculated by UWF researchers for arsenic. This level of arsenic is also higher than most arsenic levels found in oysters in Escambia Bay. Mercury and chromium were also found in higher levels in Perdido Bay clams as compared with Escambia Bay oyster.
In brief, don’t eat clams out of Perdido Bay - not only are they unsafe but it is against the law. Perdido Bay has not been classified as a “shell fishing area”. It looks to me like Escambia Bay’s oyster are not safe either - even though parts of Escambia Bay are open for shell fishing.
The New Impaired Waters List is Out - Upper Perdido Bay is still Impaired
Several years ago, we were very concerned about a new rule which Florida had passed to identify “impaired waters”. This is the “Impaired Water” Rule. The Clean Water Act requires that states identify waters which are not meeting water quality standards, and impose limitations on dischargers (both point and non-point) to correct the situation. Florida developed a rule and established criteria for how to identify what waters were impaired. The rule was written by lobbyist (lawyers) for the big polluters. The rule was full of loop-holes. From the beginning you could see that decisions based on the rule were not really going to be scientific or objective. But, the rule made decisions appear to be “scientific”. We were afraid Upper Perdido Bay would be removed from the impaired waters list, so the paper mill could pollute without limit. On September 21, DEP published its list of waters they still considered “impaired”. Upper Perdido Bay is still on the impaired list as well as Elevenmile Creek and a few other tributaries. But, while Upper Perdido Bay was listed due to impairment from low dissolved oxygen and excessive nutrients on the earlier lists, impairment due to low dissolved oxygen has been removed from the new list. This is not right. We will have to see what we can do. More about this in the next newsletter.