Friends of Perdido Bay
10738 Lillian Highway
Pensacola, FL 32506
Tidings The Newsletter of the Friends of Perdido Bay, Inc.
October 2005 Volume 18 Number 5 Jackie Lane -Editor
Friends of Perdido Bay received back enough of the proxy cards and had enough votes at the meeting on September 8, 2005 to be able to change our Articles of Incorporation. The Articles will read that we are protecting both Florida and Alabama properties, which we have been doing anyhow for years. Thank you for returning your cards.
Administrative Hearing in Limbo
When we first challenged International Paper's permit in April 2005, the date for a hearing on our challenge was scheduled for September, 2005. When we asked for more time to prepare our case, the hearing was rescheduled for December. Then IP announced that they were going to produce about half brown paper instead of all white paper. This would require a change to the permit, so the administrative law judge postponed the hearing until March, 2006. Currently we still haven't gotten the proposed changes to IP's permit which they said that they would submit the beginning of October. So, our attorneys are asking the judge to abate the hearing once again until we know exactly what the changes to the permit entail. It is difficult to know what to prepare for when you don't know what the limits in the permit will be. This apparently must be IP's plan - keep being a moving target. As we wait for the changes to IP's permit to be released, IP's stock drops daily so eventually we may not have to worry about the permit anymore.
Whole IP/ECUA Project is Changing
Not only is IP changing their process, but the plan to build a domestic wastewater treatment plant on IP property is changing. Emerald Coast Utilities Authority (ECUA) recently announced that they are planning on building a new domestic wastewater treatment plant on a site near Solutia Chemical Company on Upper Escambia Bay. The IP site is only a second choice. If ECUA does not build a plant on the IP site, how can they justify borrowing $ 35 million for a pipeline to the disposal site near Perdido Bay which they do not intend to use? ECUA was going to borrow this money from the state of Florida's revolving loan fund. This fund is available for public projects, not private industry projects. If ECUA is not planning on building a wastewater treatment plant on the IP site, then the pipeline project should be canceled.
When I asked Logan Fink, an ECUA Board member about this recently, he said the pipeline project had not been canceled. When I asked why, he said IP could possibly use 5 to 10-million gallons a day of the ECUA effluent in their process. Well, that is fine for IP to reuse the domestic waste, but once the effluent goes to IP, it is all IP's effluent. ECUA should not be paying for the pipeline.
You can help get this message out. Please write the ECUA Board members, Logan Fink or Larry Walker, and let them know that ECUA should not be borrowing money for the pipeline if ECUA is not going to use the pipeline. The address for ECUA is PO Box 15311, Pensacola, Florida 32514-0311.
If the pipeline project disappears, then it is back to the drawing boards for IP. True, they are polluting our bay the whole time, but at least they do not have a permit to do so for another nine years.
Ash is a BIG Problem
Last year Ivan washed sediments from the bottom of Perdido Bay on to our properties. This black muck, which smelled terrible for several months and attracted biting black flies, was nearly six-inches deep in places in our driveway. On other properties around Upper Perdido Bay, the thickness of the black muck ranged from a light film to ankle-deep. Friends of Perdido Bay and the Perdido Bay Foundation collected muck from several properties around the upper bay and had it tested for dioxin, PCB's and several heavy metals. We analyzed a sediment sample from Upper Perdido Bay which had been collected and frozen in Fall 2003. Dioxin from all samples of muck from properties around the bay were approximately four times higher than the EPA- recommended dioxin exposure level for residences. Of the heavy metals, arsenic values found in these samples, were 15-times the EPA-recommended exposure for residences. The sediment sample taken from Perdido Bay sediments in Fall 2003 (nearly one year before Hurricane Ivan) mirrored the profile of dioxin, PCB's, and heavy metals found on peoples' properties after Hurricane Ivan.
We of course suspected the paper mill. The paper mill is the largest source of pollution in Upper Perdido Bay. The test for dioxin that we had run analyzed 17 different isomers (or forms) of dioxin and furans and then converted the toxicities of the different isomers to be equivalent to the most toxic form- 2,3,7,8 -TCDD. The test also tested for 12 different PCB's. The profile of all forms of dioxins and PCB's from all samples were very similar. The chemist who ran the dioxin samples for us is considered an expert in identifying dioxin isomers and identifying their source. He looked at our samples and said they did not have the profile of a paper mill bleach plant operation. From the dioxin profile, our chemist told us that the dioxin came from a combustion source - burning wood, forest fires, etc. Well, we had had several forest fires around the bay, but was it enough to account for all the dioxin? And what about the arsenic?
Recently, as we began our discovery for the administrative hearing, we have run across correspondence which may show the source of dioxin and arsenic in the sediments of Perdido Bay. IP has a huge requirement for energy at their mill. Our latest information indicated that IP generates about 80% of their own power for the mill. IP switched from using elemental chlorine to using chlorine dioxide in 1995. Chlorine dioxide is generated on site because it cannot be transported. To generate chlorine dioxide, an electrical current is passed through chlorate in a brine solution. This generation is a very energy intensive process (and if it is not carefully controlled, elemental chlorine can be produced). So while the conversion to chlorine dioxide cut back on the formation of the toxic form of dioxin (2,3,7,8 TCDD), it greatly increased the paper company's energy bill. Originally, the paper company was supposed to use natural gas, diesel fuel, and coal. But natural gas prices skyrocketed, so IP started burning leftover wood products, mixed with coal. One big drawback of the wood and coal mixture is the ash. There is a lot of ash which IP has to dispose of. This is where Escambia County, Florida helps out. In exchange for buying Escambia County's landfill gas (at a small price), Escambia County accepts some of IP's ash as landfill cover. But not all of it. IP also has its own landfill, but apparently it is expensive to truck ash to its own landfill. Therefore, IP has been stockpiling ash from its boilers. From aerial photographs, you can see ash being stockpiled off to one side of their industrial yard exposed to the rain (we will put this picture on our internet site). When it rains, the exposed ash is washed into their stormwater ponds and the fluid and probably some ash runs out into Perdido Bay.
IP also washes the ash from its boilers into an ash settling basin. The water (about one million gallons a day) flows from the ash settling basin into their treatment ponds and then into Perdido Bay. Dioxin is a product of combustion. Arsenic definitely comes from the coal which IP burns. IP tests their effluent for heavy metals. Several years ago IP noticed that they were exceeding the state limit for arsenic. DEP records confirm that the arsenic was in the coal that IP burned and maybe still is.
Because we have not yet tested IP's ash, we cannot say for sure that it is the ash which contains dioxin and arsenic - it may be the air. Products spewed into the air, fall back to earth in rain and through settling. This is a pretty terrible scenario. We don't have to swim in water containing heavy metals and dioxin, but we do have to breathe. We can't avoid it. This would really put the people who live near the paper mill at risk. Cutting energy costs at the paper mill has cost this whole area its clean water and maybe its clean air.
Friends of Perdido Bay has been accused of doing nothing but attacking the paper mill. This is not true. In 1988, Friends of Perdido Bay was founded to work with the paper mill. Instead of going to an administrative hearing against then-owners of the paper mill, Champion, we agreed to work with Champion. And we did. For five or more years, Friends went up to Champion and reviewed their progress, reviewed their studies. I even remember standing up at a meeting in the Lillian Community Club and telling everyone to "trust Champion". We cooperated. However when the results from the studies started coming out and Dr. Livingston, Champion's biological consultant, declared that Perdido Bay's problems were coming from the Gulf of Mexico, I knew we were in trouble. I have changed my opinion - you cannot trust the paper companies or the environmental agencies.
As we go through papers and documents, we see all these places where Florida's Department of Environmental Protection and EPA have looked the other way or even tried to help IP get its permit. One of those places is accepting absurd reasoning and values which were used in the model predicting dissolved oxygen levels in Perdido Bay. According to DEP's rules, a discharge is not allowed to cause or contribute to violations in water quality standards. So much work had been done in Eleven Mile Creek to show that IP's effluent would cause violations in dissolved oxygen in Eleven Mile Creek that IP had no chance of getting a permit while discharging to the creek. Therefore, the plan was hatched to build a pipeline (with public money) and run the effluent overland. Of course, IP still had to show that once the effluent left the land and entered Perdido Bay, the effluent was not going to depress the level of dissolved oxygen below the minimum state standard (5 parts per million). So IP ran a model, and hocus pocos, the level of dissolved oxygen was only going to be a "little worse" than it is today. Through all kinds of magical manipulations and faulty assumptions, IP concluded that their discharges were not going to violate state standards. DEP accepted this information.
Even common sense will tell you this is wrong. If you compare the Mainstreet Wastewater Treatment Plant's permit limits (in downtown Pensacola) with IP's BOD and TSS (see box above), you can see how much more oxygen consuming material IP discharges. The Mainstreet Plant treats sewage from 186,000 people.
So, all I can say is "Good luck trying to defend no-impact reasoning in court".