Friends of Perdido Bay
10738 Lillian Highway
Pensacola, FL 32506
Tidings The Newsletter of the Friends of Perdido Bay
September 2003 Volume 16 Number 5 Jackie Lane -Editor
Come to a Rally Against IP Permit - September 25, 2003
Friends of Perdido Bay will be having a rally to generate support against the proposed International Paper permit. The rally will be held September 25, 2003 at the Lillian Community Club in Lillian Alabama, beginning at 7:00 PM. We need a large turn out to show the Florida regulators that we will not tolerate any more years of nasty pollution. To win this battle we need everyone to rally against the proposed permit.
No Draft Permit Yet
For years we have been waiting for a draft permit for the paper mill to come out. In 1995 we read a proposed draft permit, but it was never officially released. Recently we were told that a draft permit would come out in mid-September, but now Florida environmental officials are saying "end of September". Does this sound familiar? At a meeting to update the public about the proposed IP/ECUA partnership given in January 2001, the completion date for the upgrades to the IP treatment facility was projected to be December 2002. The mill and DEP are just a little behind - eight years late on the court directed date to have the problem solved. The bottom line is: The mill just does not have a scientifically sound plan to get a permit for Perdido Bay. The permit they got in 1989 was only a temporary permit, which contained a Consent Order to be in compliance with all state laws by 1994. It did not happen. Previously, permits to the paper mill were issued without any public involvement without public questions. (Read more below.) This will not happen again.
Thank you Ono Island
Since our letters to Lillian residents generated many new members and lots of support, we decided to send out letters to Ono Islands residents. Again, we got many new members. Thank you. It is gratifying to know that people do care. The terrible condition of the bay this summer has helped our cause. People should be upset. We live on the water but can not use it for swimming. This is a disgrace to the community and brazen disregard of the just rights of property owners and the general public.
I was told recently that IP is doing what every good industry should do for their shareholders - maximizing profit. But they are doing this at our community's expense. Maybe we should all run out and buy IP stock. That way we may re-coup some of the lost use and enjoyment of our property in higher stock prices. Undoubtedly, IP is cutting corners on the cost of operating their treatment system. A source at DEP told me that IP had reduced aeration in the treatment ponds. Comparison of aerial photographs of the IP treatment ponds taken in 2003 and the late 1990's appear to confirm this. Less aeration means less treatment. Less aeration also means a bigger savings in energy costs for the paper mill. Champion officials used to tell us that they spent $15,000 a day on color removal. The extremely brown water this summer may be partially caused by cutting corners on color removal costs. Why are the environmental agencies allowing this to happen? It is simple - influence. They got it and we don't.
This pollution of Perdido Bay by the paper mill is an excellent example of how money buys influence and power. Perdido Bay was a sparsely populated bay back in the 1940's when the paper mill opened. Not many influential people were affected by this terrible pollution. But things have changed. Today, there are still relatively few people who live on upper Perdido Bay above the Lillian bridge. However lower Perdido Bay has become more and more populated. Ono Island and Orange Beach have become a popular vacation areas. There is money and there is influence. But is there enough to overcome the influence of the paper mill and timber interests?
Over the past 15 years, I have watched while the environmental agencies have been manipulated by this influence. Many of these manipulations have been illegal, but backroom deals are hard to uncover and fight. One manipulation started as the paper mill's permit began to expire at the end of 1994. Because Champion (the old owner) submitted a timely application for a new permit, they were absolved from any wrong-doing. The state environmental agency was the culprit. They simply sat on the application and never issued a new permit. The old temporary operating permit through a Consent Order required Champion to be "in compliance with all state laws and standards at the expiration of the permit, unless otherwise agreed". This Consent Order was the subject of an Administrative Hearing in 1988. The Hearing Officer agreed that Champion needed the five-years to cleanup, but that any change in the compliance with time schedule should have required public notice another opportunity for the public to challenge. This never happened and the paper mill never complied (another backroom decision).
Since 2000, DEP quietly broadened the exemptions of the 1989 Consent Order, deciding to grant the paper mill exemptions for all water quality standards in Eleven Mile Creek. By doing this, all the violations in Eleven Mile Creek are automatically forgiven, according to DEP. This is not what the 1989 Consent Order said, but DEP has refused to give us an officially binding interpretation, and the First District Court of Appeals agreed that we weren't entitled to one.
In 1995, Florida was granted the ability to issue the federal NPDES permit. This meant that a discharger in the state of Florida would only need to get one permit, not two (a state and a federal permit). The state permit would also serve as the federal permit. For Champion, the date of merger of the permits was November 1995. But language in the DEP order merging the permits said the order had expired in December 1994. So the Order expired before it was ever written. Absurd. Further, the order merging the two permits should have been publicly noticed. It never was. When I pointed this out to a Champion attorney five years later, he said he was giving me official notice at that time - five years late.
The EPA is certainly guilty as well. EPA had issued a draft federal permit to Champion in 1990. This draft permit had new, more stringent pollution limits, which were supposed to go into effect in 1994. We officially asked for a hearing on this permit, requesting that it include a requirement that Champion meet Florida's diversity standard in Eleven Mile Creek. Despite repeated phone calls, EPA would take no action on the request. In 1992, we got a call from EPA saying they would like to settle the issue without a hearing. We said O.K. After several negotiations by phone, EPA stopped responding. The next thing we knew in 1995 was that EPA had entirely withdrawn the 1990 permit and replaced it with a permit issued in 1983 to the previous owners of the mill - St. Regis (more back room decisions). The levels of pollutants allowed in the 1983 permit are higher. Further, there was a 1995 Memorandum of Agreement between EPA and DEP (unknown to us until recently) which prohibited DEP from changing conditions in the 1989 state permit. The 1989 state permit has a statement saying that the state can change permit limits if levels in the permit are causing water quality violations. Regulators know that IP's permitted pollution levels are causing problems in Perdido Bay, but influence has prevailed again. So, we ask, what is next? What will be the next government backroom decision in the permit fight?
Livingston's Latest "Science"
Recently, a new draft report has been issued detailing some of Dr. Livingston's recent findings about Perdido Bay. Dr. Livingston is International Paper's biological consultant on the health of Perdido Bay. The draft report, which was issued in July 2003, shows alarming trends in the bottom sediments of Perdido Bay. Since 2000, there has been an increase in the nutrients of nitrogen and phosphorus in the bottom sediments of Perdido Bay. Dr. Livingston lays the blame for these increased nutrients, not on International Paper, but on the Bayou Marcus wastewater treatment plant which discharges to wetlands surrounding Upper Perdido Bay. As evidence for this theory, Dr. Livingston says that the sediments from the mouth of Eleven Mile Creek have not shown an increase, but the sediments from a station in Upper Perdido Bay have increased. Livingston says this station is impacted by the Bayou Marcus wastewater treatment plant. All sediment stations in both the upper and lower bays (except for station at the mouth of Eleven Mile) had higher phosphate and nitrogen levels from 2000 to 2003. Livingston also found that "blooms" of toxic algae were especially acute during October 2002. The October 2002 bloom occurred all up and down the bay, except right at the mouth of Eleven Mile Creek.
But the real knock-out science that Livingston uses to blame deteriorating conditions on the Bayou Marcus wastewater treatment plant is the "smell" of chlorine and wastewater in all sediments samples. The Bayou Marcus plant doesn't use chlorine. It is this anecdotal science and skewed conclusions which makes Livingston's studies laughable. How can International Paper expect to use this "science" in court?
After reading Livingston's draft July 2003 report, I have another interpretation of the results. I do not doubt that conditions in Perdido Bay are worse. We can all see that they are. However, why are conditions worse? We have had reports that IP has reduced the aeration in its ponds thus increasing the pollution and toxicity of its effluent. By sampling bottom stations after heavy rainfalls (as Livingston has), you would not find much deposited material at the mouth of Eleven Mile Creek. It's the "blow-out" effect. Plus, it is hard to tell the exact location of the station at the mouth of Eleven Mile Creek from Livingston's diagrams. He does not give a description of this station. Just inside the mouth of Eleven Mile Creek is a very deep hole, but the mouth of Eleven Mile Creek is shallow, only two feet on some tides. So, you would not expect material to be deposited at very shallow creek mouths, especially after heavy stream flows. Most of the 8,000 to 10,000 pounds of small wood fibers and sludge that come from the paper mill every day will be deposited in the deeper parts of Perdido Bay.
The fact that toxic blooms of phytoplankton do not occur around the mouth of Eleven Mile Creek is not surprising if the paper mill effluent is toxic or the color of the effluent is very dark. Both would inhibit the proliferation of one-celled plants which cause the toxic blooms.
The Bayou Marcus wastewater treatment plant was not the only source of pollution targeted by Livingston. The general deterioration of the bay occured all the way down to Wolfe's Bay. Down at Wolfe's Bay, Livingston said that agricultural and urban runoff were causing the deterioration. Is there more agricultural and urban runoff now as compared to 1997? It is doubtful, but agricultural and stormwater are handy culprits.
I kept wondering why Livingston came out with such a questionable study. Maybe it was to refute statements he made in another study he published in August 2000. In the Introduction of the August 2000 document, Livingston writes:
"Perdido Bay in the NE Gulf of Mexico is somewhat unique in that it is a relatively small system with only one primary source of pollution in the upper bay, a pulp mill. Pulp mill effluents tend to have relatively high concentrations of nutrients. Although there is some agricultural runoff into the Perdido River, such activity is concentrated principally to the west and south of the upper bay. Most of the land in the upper Perdido drainage basin is lightly populated. The highest agricultural and urban runoff is thus located in the lower bay. This combination of factors established upper Perdido Bay as an excellent place to carry out research concerning nutrient loading and eutrophication since the upper bay is small, and relatively free of pollutants other than a single point source of nutrients."
He is remarkably candid in this paragraph, and now he probably wishes he hadn't said this, especially if he is going to testify in court as IP's expert witness. Stay tuned, and watch the next squirm. They get more pitiful with each passing year.