Friends of Perdido Bay

10738 Lillian Highway

Pensacola, FL 32506


Tidings The Newsletter of the Friends of Perdido Bay

February 2005 Volume 18 Number 1 Jackie Lane -Editor

Warning. This Information could make you mad

Of course, this information may not make you mad, but it certainly should make you be very careful. Friends of Perdido Bay recently received results of dioxin, PCB's and metals analyses that we had run on samples of muck that were washed onto our beach and into our yards during Hurricane Ivan. Three samples were sent for testing. One sample was the muck from a beach in Upper Perdido Bay. Another sample was the layer of dried muck, about an inch thick, sitting in a driveway. The third sample was muck from Upper Perdido Bay collected in February 2003 and frozen. All three samples had high levels of dioxin, PCB's and heavy metals. The toxic equivalent of dioxin was four times higher than Florida's target level for clean-up of soils in residential areas. Florida's clean-up level is 0.8 parts per million (ppm)of arsenic and 7 parts per trillion (ppt) of dioxin. The driveway muck had the highest level of dioxin (31.3 ppt) and the highest level of arsenic (16 ppm). These results can be found in a Table on our website, Most likely the driveway sample contained the greatest amount of organic matter. Heavy metals and dioxins are associated with organic material. All three samples has remarkably similar profiles of PCB's dioxins and metals, indicating that they came from a common source.

After getting these results, I was both alarmed and mad. We have been walking, kneeling, breathing the dust, and generally getting this stuff all over us. Some people have piles of it that they have scraped out of their houses and off their driveways. And what do these chemicals cause? Cancer. Both dioxin and arsenic are recognized as very potent cancer causing chemicals. Dioxin is one of the most toxic chemicals known with no lower "safe" limit. Both of these are chemicals with which you do not want to be associated. Dioxin is known to be formed during the bleaching process in paper making.

Dioxins are more toxic to vertebrate animals (humans are vertebrates), than to invertebrates. Sensitive mammals such as river otter begin to show toxic effects when exposed to levels of dioxin as low as 2.5 ppt. The upper toxic level of 25 ppt can be lethal. So what about porpoise? No one knows because the effect of dioxin on porpoises has not been studied. But Mike Brim, the former U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist who did much of the dioxin sampling, suspects that the immune systems of porpoise may be compromised by exposure to low levels of dioxin. Many times the tissues of dead porpoise are not analyzed for levels of dioxin. So, if I see a porpoise in Perdido Bay, which I haven't lately, I hope it doesn't stay long.

The high values of dioxin in both pre- and post hurricane samples was rather surprising. In August 1999, samples taken from bottom sediments in Upper, Middle, and Lower Perdido Bay had less than 1 ppt dioxin. These studies were funded by the Perdido Bay Foundation. This indicates a 30 fold increase from August 1999 to February 2003. International Paper had assumed ownership of the paper mill in January 2000.

Previous dioxin studies in Perdido Bay by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife in 1995 had documented a level of 14.75 ppt in sediments of the center of the lower bay. Higher dioxin values were found in sediments of Eleven Mile Creek. These values ranged from 18.9 ppt to 77.51 ppt and were the highest sediment values found in a survey of Panhandle bay sediments. In 1995, Champion International Paper Company, the former owner of the mill in Cantonment, FL claimed that they had converted their bleaching process to 100% chlorine dioxide bleaching, thereby eliminating dioxin. The results of the August 1999 dioxin testing seemed to confirm Champion's claims. What has happened?

After finding these high results, we debated about what we should do with the information. We called Florida's DEP. They did not even want to see the data, let alone do any thing about it. The Escambia County (Florida) Health Department does not have a department or a person locally that can deal with this problem. Just as this was being written, the Escambia County Health Department said they were informed that DEP had contacted the Florida Health Department in Tallahassee, but did not know the name of the person contacted in Tallahassee. This is amazing. There is no government agency that can help us. Because it has become apparent that no agency was interested in the situation, we called a news conference and announced the results ourselves. True, these are the results from only three samples. But all three samples have almost the exact same profiles and results. We think the public should be aware that this muck may be dangerous and it should be avoided. To document the degree of contamination and location, we have collected more samples from properties around the bay and have sent them off for dioxin analysis. In about three weeks we should know the results. And we will most likely call another press conference and try and let the public know about our results. Until then avoid the muck washed in from Ivan.

What about a clean-up? Good question. We just don't know. The DEP is trying to downplay the severity of the problem. They have told us that the problem is no more serious than in other places around the U.S. (Is this supposed to make us feel better?). Our government officials will be notified but I am not expecting much from any elected official. Our elected officials have not helped us in the past, and I doubt they will help us now. So our choices have become limited. It has become more obvious why people resort mean attorneys. I am going to try the mean attorney route. This appears to be a clear case of chemical trespass by the paper mill. No class action this time. Punitive damages should be in the millions. If you are interested in getting the muck which has washed up on your soil tested, the laboratory which is certified to do this testing is: Alta Analytical Perspectives, 2714 Exchange Drive, Wilmington, NC 28405, phone 910-794-1613. The cost per sample is $1040.00. Contact this lab before you send the sample. They will send you a glass jar, gloves, cooler and instructions on how to sample. The lab has been very helpful. But if you find a law firm to take your case, many large law firms have the resources to do the sampling. Good luck to everyone and we will keep you informed.

Making it Legal

While we are busy worrying about cleaning up the high levels of dioxin and heavy metals contaminating our bay and properties, the DEP is busy trying to making the dumping of dioxin and similar compounds legal. In the IP's draft permit for the pipeline and overland discharge, the allowable levels of discharge for adsorbable organic halides (called AOX) is 2,008 pounds per day. AOX is a group of dioxin-like compounds of various toxicities (it may be pure dioxin). So the DEP permit will be allowing IP to discharge a certain level of dioxin-like compounds into our bay - 2,000 pounds worth every day. There is a maximum discharge limit for dioxin of 0.014 ppt in water. This the catch. Dioxin is not associated with water. Dioxin doesn't like water. Dioxin and heavy metals are associated with the solids - with the Total Suspended Solids (TSS). IP doesn't have to filter the water and analyze the solids for heavy metals and dioxin. No, instead they have to analyze a liter of water (effluent) with about half a teaspoon of solids suspended in the water. The dilution of the dioxin containing solids by the water is great enough so that the levels of metals and dioxin are non-detectable. This is especially true if the effluent is not shaken sufficiently before running the tests. So when the paper companies (IP is not the only culprit) say they do not "produce dioxin", they mean they can not detect dioxin in their effluent. If the environmental agencies required the paper companies to analyze the solids (TSS) for dioxin and heavy metals, I am sure dioxin would be found. The draft permit which DEP is trying to issue to IP would allow an average of 8,000 pounds per day of solids with a daily maximum of 16,000 pounds per day (including metals and dioxin-like compounds). Horrible, and our environmental agencies are totally aware of this fact.

With this discovery of high levels of dioxin in the solids from the paper mill, the use of land application of the effluent, as envisioned by the draft permit, is nearly impossible. The land over which this effluent is dispersed would trap some of the solids particles (until a heavy rain washed solids into Perdido Bay) and would become a toxic waste site. There would be harm to the fauna and flora of the land, as has happened in Perdido Bay, and the paper mill would have to cease dumping into the Rainwater Tract. When this happens, there is a contingency plan which would allow them to go back into Eleven Mile Creek. IP and DEP have considered everything.

Friends of Perdido Bay has more reason than ever to fight this draft permit. So should you.

More Ammunition

You will hear all sorts of diversionary statements put out by friends of the paper mill. This dioxin is coming from incineration, illegal dumping, the land fill, toxic waste sites that haven't been discovered, air, etc. Every where but the paper mill. A spokesman for the paper mill in Cantonment was quoted in the newspaper as saying that they do not discharge dioxin. What they mean is that they can not detect dioxin because the dioxin-laden, suspended solids are diluted by the aqueous effluent (See above article). However, dioxin and AOX are known to be produced by paper mills. The reason paper mills have dioxin and AOX limits is because paper mills do produce these chemicals. These chemicals are a byproduct of the paper mill bleaching process.

Recently the Levin Law Firm released a study (the study was released on January 23, 2005) written by Dr. Wayne Isphording who was commissioned to test sediments in Upper Perdido Bay and Eleven Mile Creek. Dr. Isphording looked at the metals, AOX (adsorbable organic halides), size of sediment particles, and carbon and nitrogen. At several of the sample sites, Dr. Isphording also tested the very fine "colloidal" layer above the sediments. According to Dr. Isphording, highest levels of AOX , aluminum, arsenic, chromium, iron, zinc and carbon levels occurred at an Eleven Mile Creek site and also at certain stations in Upper Perdido Bay. According to Dr. Isphording sediment particle size had not changed much from his previous study in 1989. But he concluded that the presence of AOX (remember dioxin is an AOX) showed that the sediments came from the paper mill and that the AOX and certain metals levels were high.

According to Dr. Isphording's report, in February 18, 2004 IP had asked for a daily average limit of 217 pounds of AOX per day. The actual draft permit that came out in September 2004 allowed IP to discharge 2008 pounds of AOX per day. A 10 fold increase.

Ester's Lawsuit

A number of people have asked about the status of Ester's lawsuit. Even though I am still an Intervenor in this lawsuit, I am not sure what the status is. The fourth amended complaint of the Levin firm, which included a request for class-action status, was withdrawn on October 9, 2003. Steve Medina, who is the attorney working on this case for Levin, stated in his motion to withdraw that he would file another complaint in three months from that date. Nothing has happened. Florida Rules of Civil Procedure say that if nothing is filed for one year, the case is automatically adjudicated in favor of the defendant, International Paper. Since there was no complaint outstanding, I am not sure what would have been adjudicated. But to keep the case alive, I filed a motion. However, shortly before I filed, International Paper filed with the Clerk of Courts. So International Paper has kept the case alive for another year. I am not sure why, but obviously they thought it was in their best interest to keep the lawsuit active. So far, the Isphording study has not been filed with the courts and I am not sure what part the Isphording study will play in the lawsuit. Maybe one of these days the mystery will be solved. But stay tuned. It is very interesting.

Internet web sites of interest concerning dioxin and paper mills: ,