Friends of Perdido Bay

10738 Lillian Highway

Pensacola, FL 32506


Tidings The Newsletter of the Friends of Perdido Bay

April 2005 Volume 18 Number 2 Jackie Lane -Editor

Chronic, Not Acute

Friends of Perdido Bay recently received results from more dioxin and heavy metal tests of sludge samples which were washed onto peoples' properties around the bay. The results were much like the first set of samples which we announced in the previous newsletter - dioxin and arsenic were above state standards for clean-up. We sampled sludge on three properties and a sample of the sludge from the bottom of Perdido Bay. The three properties are located in Lillian Alabama, north of the Hwy 98 bridge; in Florida, south of the 98 bridge; and in Florida, in the Bay Forest Subdivision next to Eleven Mile Creek. All samples were collected February 6, 2005. The dioxin values ranged from a high of 27.4 parts per trillion to a low of 9.12 part per trillion. The dioxin value of the sludge in Perdido Bay collected February 6, 2005 was 22.1 parts per trillion. These dioxin values are up to four times higher than Florida's recommended clean-up value of 7 parts per trillion in residential areas.

It should be mentioned that these dioxin values are calculated from the toxic equivalents of the various isomers of the different dioxins and furans. The test that we had run on the samples determines the concentration of seven different isomers (or forms) of dioxin and ten different isomers (or types) of furans. Furans are dioxin-like compounds. All types of dioxins and furnans are toxic and cause cancer to varying degrees. The clean-up value of 7 parts per trillion which Florida uses is based on the calculated toxic equivalent value.

We collected samples for both dioxin and heavy metals on January 29 and 30, 2005 and sent samples for dioxin analysis and for heavy metal analysis to different labs. Samples for dioxin analysis must be sent on ice and for overnight delivery to the laboratory in North Carolina. Samples for heavy metal analysis can be taken by us to a local laboratory. Unfortunately the samples for dioxin analysis did not arrive within the specified time limit. They arrived a day late. We were afraid the samples for dioxin might have been compromised, so we instructed the lab to discard the samples. We collected another batch of samples for dioxin analysis the following week and they arrived on time.

Of the eight heavy metals tested, arsenic was above the state standard for clean-up in residential areas. The sludge which was taken from a property in Lillian Alabama, above the Hwy. 98 bridge contained 20 parts per million of arsenic and the arsenic sample from the sludge in the bottom of Perdido Bay contained 16 parts per million. The state recommended level of arsenic for clean-up is 0.8 parts per million. I was told just recently that this value may change to 2.3 parts per million. But at any rate, the levels of arsenic in the sludges washed onto our properties are much higher than the recommended state levels for clean-up.

What about a clean-up? Well, maybe the recent rains took care of it in residential yards. We sampled only the muck washed onto our properties from Perdido Bay during Hurricane Ivan. We did not sample the soil in general. With the recent heavy rains much of this muck has been dispersed. Arsenic which is water soluble, probably washed back into the ground water and then back into the bay. Dioxin which is not water soluble but which is associated with the organic material (not sand) has probably been spread out pretty thin. We have had several discussions with DEP and EPA about the levels of dioxin and arsenic which would get federal clean up. Mike Norman, a soils clean up expert with the EPA, told me that the levels of contaminants that we have on our properties are chronic but not acute. For the levels to be acute and to initiate consideration for a federal clean up, dioxin has to be at one part per billion (ours are at 0.022 parts per billion) and arsenic has to be at 30 parts per million (ours are at 20 parts per million). So the end results is: we have contamination; there is a health risk; but the levels are not high enough for a federal clean up under present EPA guidelines.

Call us, if you are interested in legal action.

We think this is a very definite case of chemical trespass. Until we did the testing for dioxin, we believed what the paper company told us - "we don't produce dioxin". We know now that this is not true (See next article). We have been talking to several different law firms. If you think your property was flooded with the sludge washed into your yard from Perdido Bay and you have not signed an agreement to be represented by Steve Medina from the Levin, Papantonio Law Firm, give us a call. Our number is 850-453-5488. We are making a list of people who are interested in proceeding with property damage claims.

Recently I received a status letter from Steve Medina in Ester Johnson's lawsuit. According to Mr. Medina, the Levin Firm is going to apply for "certification of the class" in the second quarter of 2005. The Levin Firm has done some additional testing and found evidence that material (probably heavy metals) from IP's fly ash ponds are washing into IP's waste water treatment system and then into Perdido Bay. At present however, there is no complaint in Ester's lawsuit and there have been previous promises of action by the Levin Firm which didn't occur.

Truths, Half Truths and Damn Lies

For years, I have been duped by the chemical and paper industry people. Back in 1987, my husband and I applied for an administrative hearing on the permit that Florida was trying to issue to then owners of the mill, Champion. We looked at the data from DEP (then DER) and saw that the paper mill was not complying with state law. But, Champion came to us and said, "We are going to do the right thing, we just need time to clean up". "We are going to go beyond the letter of the law, and follow the spirit of the law." My husband and I are reasonable people. We believed the paper industry people. They probably did need the three years or so to figure out how best to cope with their situation. They were going to study and then come up with solutions. Our acceptance of Champion's proposal split the Perdido Bay Environmental Association into two factions - those who were willing to work with Champion for 3 years and those who decided to pursue an administrative hearing on the 1988 Florida permit. Those of us who decided to work with Champion formed a new environmental group - Friends of Perdido Bay. For several years, Friends of Perdido Bay worked with the paper mill, inviting them to speak at meetings and visiting the mill to discuss progress. The other group of people who decided to fight the permit went to an administrative hearing on the 1988 permit. While Champion did get the permit in 1989, the permit was only a Temporary Permit. The Hearing Officer wrote that Champion did need some time to fix the problem, but that they would be in compliance with all state laws at the expiration of the permit in 1994. This was the first big lie. Champion apparently never really intended to fix their problem or be in compliance with state law. They figured we would go away and politics would do the rest.

There were other lies or maybe half truths. In the mid-1990's the paper mill tried to spread the word that Perdido Bay had been cleaned up. Many people in the community who only saw Perdido Bay from the Lillian Bridge probably believed this. But many of us who used Perdido Bay everyday, could not believe it. To begin with, we had massive algae blooms and we still had foam and turbid water. The diversity of life that should have been in the bay was not there. They told us that they were not producing dioxin. Again we believed them. Our tests of the sediments in Perdido Bay in 1999 looking for all the different isomers of dioxins and furans showed less than 1 Part Per Trillion of toxic equivalents of dioxin.

When International Paper took over the mill in 2000, the bay became noticeably worse. The grass beds which had been flourishing died. All the clams died. All the snails died. Even reeds and vegetation in contact with the bay water died. The fish disappeared and my husband got a leg infection when he tried to go fishing. Then came the dioxin tests - one of a sediment sample frozen since 2003 and several of the muck that was washed onto our properties from Perdido Bay after Hurricane Ivan. There it was - dioxin at toxic levels. Again, the denial by the paper mill - "We don't produce dioxin". This is another big lie. Changing to chlorine dioxide helped to lower one of the more toxic forms of dioxin - 2,3,7,8 TCDD, but it did not eliminate the formation of dioxin. Only eliminating the use of chlorine of any sort in the bleaching process and going to Totally Chlorine Free (TCF) as has been done in Europe, will eliminate the formation of dioxin.

Making the Discharge of Dioxin Legal

You would think that DEP would be trying to prohibit the discharge of dioxin into the environment. But no. In the permit which DEP is trying to issue to IP, the mill will be allowed to discharge up to 2000 pounds per day of dioxin-like compounds, innocuously called AOX. These compounds cause cancer, and hormonal and endocrine disorders. And you wonder why the cancer rate is increasing.

Come to the ECUA Board Meeting on April 28 at 3:00 PM

We are inviting all our members to attend the ECUA Board meeting on April 28, 2005 at 3:00 PM at ECUA's Offices in Ellyson Industrial Park. We want everyone who can attend the meeting to speak against any more wastewater being discharged into Perdido Bay and against the IP/ECUA partnership to build the pipeline to a land disposal area near Perdido Bay. With the new data showing that IP is discharging dioxin in their sludges, we certainly do not want a public utility being exposed to this liability. The next thing you know suits against ECUA as well as IP may be considered.


Development is coming. While many of us hate to lose our wilderness along the Perdido River, the only sure way of protecting wilderness is by having the state or federal government buy the land. Just recently I heard that Alabama was negotiating with IP to buy a large chunk of land along Perdido River south of Bay Minette. But I don't believe that it is feasible that all the land along the Perdido River can be purchased. Some of it will eventually be developed. So, we have to push for "low impact" development. The recent conceptual plans for a very large new development along north and south shores of the Blackwater River in Alabama appear to use "low impact" concepts. Right now the plans are just concepts. The devil is in the details and in the enforcement, but now the plans look good. There are 3,449 acres involved of which 1,000 are wetlands. The developer, which is the AIG Baker Insurance Company, plans to fill only five acres of wetlands for road crossings. No golf course is planned, maybe only a putting green. When completely built out in 15 years, there will be 1,640 dwelling units on small lots with a lot of open space. No grass will be allowed, only wooded natural landscaping (I like this). Everything will be left as natural and as rustic as possible. The plan calls for a village concept with roads radiating out from the center. The sewage system is being designed by Dr. Kevin White from South Alabama, who believes in a decentralized treatment system. Solids will be held on the property and liquid will be pumped offsite to a land disposal site near a Baldwin County Landfill. The north side of the property will be used for hunting and horseback riding, with trails (watch that horse poop). A pedestrian bridge will connect north and south sides of the property. The development will be accessed from County Road 91 and eventually County Road 32. We can't say it is a done deal, but slowly development is going to happen. Let it happen wisely.

Come to Earth Day and Earth Night - April 23rd

Friends of Perdido Bay is going to be at Earth Day at Bay View Park on Bayou Texar from 10 until 5. There is one catch - IP is going to be a sponsor. This is a good way to kill Earth Day. Have it taken over by the polluters. Joe Trapp, who is part of the Trapp Family Musicans and a long time supporter of a clean Perdido Bay, thought that IP being an Earth Day sponsor was too much. He and other musicans have organized a musical event for April 23 at the Handlebar in Downtown Pensacola as an Earth Night. Local bands will be playing from 9 until 2 (a little past my bedtime) with a $5.00 charge at the door. The proceeds will be donated to our group, Friends of Perdido Bay. Joe has started a new group for this night, called Citizens Against International Paper. Go Joe.