Friends of Perdido Bay
10738 Lillian Highway
Pensacola, FL 32506
Tidings The Newsletter of the Friends of Perdido Bay
February 2004 Volume 17 Number 1 Jackie Lane -Editor
Happy New Year and Stay Informed
Each year we are hopeful that this year will bring an end to the terrible pollution of Perdido Bay. And maybe this will be the year. But so far the year has started out slow. We expected a draft permit for the IP/ECUA project to be submitted in December 2003, but so far nothing has happened. We were told that a public hearing was going to be held in January, but no public hearing. Maybe the regulators are hoping that we will go away. It looks like they are the ones which are going away. Stay tuned.
David Struhs, Secretary of DEP, goes to work for IP
It is official. David Struhs, the current secretary of Florida's environmental agency DEP is going to work for IP. Not that he hasn't been working for them already, but he will now be their Vice-president for Environmental Affairs. Is it unusual for a Secretary of a governmental agency to take a high level job with industry? No. Tom Jorling, whose job David Struhs took, also was an ex-Secretary of New York's environmental agency. Industry likes to hire people who know the environmental process and have influence and connections in the governmental agencies. Yes, there is a real coziness and maybe even a conflict of interest in working for an industry which you once regulated. But it happens all the time. Most of the high-level people who leave the government agencies go to work, either directly or indirectly as consultants, for businesses.
In the case of the paper mill in Cantonment, Florida, David Struhs is not the first environmental secretary to be hired by them. In 1987, Vicki Tschinkel, who was Bob Graham's Secretary of DEP when Bob Graham was governor of Florida, became a consultant for the paper mill, then owned by Champion. She was supposedly helping Champion with their permitting problems and she was the one who approached us back in 1987 when we filed for an administrative hearing on the Champion permit. In 2000, Ms Tschinkel was still trying to help the paper mill get a valid permit with no success.
David Struhs will bring more to IP than just intimate knowledge of the environmental people and processes. David Struhs also has close ties to the White House and George Bush. David Struhs' sister is married to Andrew Card, who is George Bush's chief of staff. So it wouldn't take much for IP to get their requests and message to president Bush.
What did David Struhs do for the paper mill in Cantonment when he was Secretary? A lot. For starters, IP has not been fined for violations in Eleven Mile Creek since the end of 1999. And those violations for which the paper mill was fined in 1999, were only violations which the paper mill voluntarily reported at their discharge point into Eleven Mile Creek. Since 1999, IP, which took the mill over in 2000, has not reported any violations of their permit limits. Does this mean that there were or are none? I don't think so.
IP should also be fined for the six or seven violations of state law which their effluent is causing daily in Eleven Mile. How is DEP explaining away these violations? As I discovered at a hearing in June 2001, DEP has interpreted a Consent Order issued in 1987, to say that the paper mill does not have to meet any standards in Eleven Mile Creek. They only have to meet the standards which they voluntarily report, at their point of discharge into Eleven Mile Creek. The 1987 Consent Order does not say this at all. But it doesn't matter, DEP is interpreting the Consent Order to mean what they want it to mean. When I sought a clarification from the DEP on exactly what state standards were exempt by the Consent Order, they refused to give me a clarification. So the DEP under David Struhs twisted the rules to say what they wanted them to say and help the paper mill.
Another "aid to industry" which occurred during David Struhs reign was the enactment of the state rule which identifies state waters which are classified as impaired. This rule is called the impaired waters rule and is part of the state requirement for developing Total Maximum Daily Loads for impaired waters. While the Total Maximum Daily Loads Law was passed before David Struhs and Co got in, the only rule which DEP developed from this law was the "impaired waters rule". Big agriculture and industry got behind the push to develop a rule with lots of exemptions to what "impaired " means. Many waters which are very impaired are not classified as impaired and the industries which make these waters impaired can continue to pollute these waters without oversight. The latest river which the state is trying to take off the "impaired waters list" using this terrible rule is the Fenholloway River. This river is the discharge river for the pulp mill in Perry Florida. Obviously, this river is impaired and likely (besides Eleven Mile Creek) the dirtiest river in Florida. But the state using this flawed impaired waters rule is trying to say that the Fenholloway is not impaired. Will Eleven Mile Creek be next?
Yes, David Struhs did as much as he could to bend the existing laws and make new laws which certainly benefitted IP. I am sure they will miss his guidance as Secretary of Florida's Environmental agency.
Where is the EPA?
This is a question I ask a lot. Isn't the EPA supposed to protect our waters. Just recently the Supreme Court of the U.S. ruled that the EPA does have oversight over state decisions. If the EPA thinks a state decision is causing degradation to its waters, EPA can step in to stop or reverse the decision. But EPA's actions are very politically motivated. The EPA did not intervene in Florida's flawed impaired waters rule, even though the state's rule obviously is contrary to the Clean Water Act. The Clean Water Act classifies waters as impaired if they are not meeting state standards. Period.
Quietly, the EPA has tried to help the paper mill in Cantonment. In 1994 Champion was operating on a federal permit issued in 1990. In this permit, more stringent standards were supposed to take effect in 1995. When it appeared that Champion was not going to be able to meet the more stringent standards because it did not improve its wastewater treatment system, the EPA withdrew the 1990 permit and replaced it with a more lenient 1983. Yes, IP is now operating on a federal permit which was issued to St. Regis in 1983. Sound like there is influence here? At about the same time, the EPA also made Florida agree to not change the limits in the state permit, even though it was obvious that the BOD and TSS limits were too high and water quality violations were occurring. Money buys influence, and influence has no boundaries.
So Now What?
Friends of Perdido Bay has opposed the IP/ECUA plan and will fight a permit issued for this plan in court. The plan has three parts: IP modernizing their wastewater treatment system; building of a pipeline to carry the 25 million gallons of IP effluent and 5 million gallons of Escambia County Utilities Authority (a public utility) wastewater to a disposal area near Perdido Bay; and ECUA building a new wastewater treatment plant on IP property in Cantonment. Friends of Perdido Bay has opposed this plan for many reasons. They are:
There has been much discussion about the disposal area (incorrectly called a wetland) filtering the effluent and making it cleaner. It will take the effluent an average of 3 days to travel from the place it is released to Perdido Bay. While the 3-day trip overland will remove, some of the plant nutrients of phosphates and nitrates, it will do little for the large amount of oxygen consuming material present in paper mill effluent. Paper mill effluent is much different than domestic waste because paper mill effluent contains large amounts of natural products such as lignin. Large lignin requires a long time to degrade (over 90 days), and will certainly continue to enter Perdido Bay and use up oxygen.
Another bad feature of this plan that has recently come to light, is that certain waters of the state will be posted "off limits" to the public. The small fishing lakes of T- and Wicker Lakes found on the marshy area adjacent to the disposal area, will receive a large portion of the exiting effluent. These areas will posted and the public prevented from entering these areas to fish.
So is waiting for the state DEP to issue a permit a bad thing? I don't think so. Every 10 years, a paper mill has to be modernized and a considerable amount of money spent on updating equipment by the company. If IP does not get a permit, they will probably not invest money at the Cantonment mill. It has been nearly 10 years since the mill was modernized. So even though the wait has been long, blocking the permit may prevent IP from putting any more money in a paper mill that can not get a permit for Perdido Bay. In addition economic factors are at work Right now it looks as if white paper is very plentiful and cheap. This means that paper mills are not making much money.
Some people in the local community may be working on trying to get a permit for the paper mill so that it will not close. Fine. We hate to see the paper mill close also, but we don't think that staying in Perdido Bay ought to be an option.
Millions of Unknown Chemicals
Many people have asked us, why we don't test for chemicals in the bay or in Eleven Mile Creek. But which chemicals? There are the conventional ones such as chloroform, chlorinated phenolic compounds, resin acids, dioxins, fatty acids and sterols which have always been associated with kraft pulping of softwoods. Many of these chemicals can be toxic and certainly cause cancer. But the paper industry has gone to using hardwoods of a variety of species. While hardwoods generally produce less "conventional pollution" than pine, the chemical variety inherent in hardwood types is probably endless. We recently bought a book entitled Environmental Fate and Effects of Pulp and Paper Mill Effluents. This book contained 61papers from a meeting of the same name held in Vancouver in 1994. On the chemicals coming from pulping and bleaching, one author wrote:
"A large number of chemicals are formed in the course of converting wood to bleached pulp. Given the complexity and diversity of modern kraft mills and the transition state of the industry in response to environmental concerns, it is impossible to completely predict the chemical composition of effluents."
This statement is especially important since IP has said that it is going to start importing Eucalyptus chips from Brazil. What chemicals will be released then? Can the paper mill assure us that these chemicals will not be toxic or cause cancer? What are those assurances? Their word?
Anyone hear anything about Ester Johnson's Class Action Lawsuit lately?