Friends of Perdido Bay
10738 Lillian Highway
Pensacola, FL 32506
Tidings The Newsletter of the Friends of Perdido Bay
January 2003 Volume 16 Number 1 Jackie Lane -Editor
Happy New Year
We hope you entered 2003 with a positive attitude. We have. In spite of the fact that Perdido Bay is still very polluted, we are hopeful that this year will show progress in our fight to clean up our bay. There are some important events going to occur in the next couple of months which are sure to effect Perdido Bay. We will keep you informed of these events in this newsletter and in future ones. Last year we saw the details of a "new plan" to clean-up Perdido Bay (pipeline to wetlands) unveiled. We intend to follow the progress of this "new plan" very closely. So stay tuned. It is your bay and your property which is being damaged by pollution from the paper mill.
On September 30, 2002, International Paper submitted an amended application for renewal of their NPDES permit for the paper mill in Cantonment Florida. This permit expired in December 1994, but has been "administratively continued" by a series of mystical and magical administrative moves, which are most likely illegal. The details of the amended permit application were the subject of the last newsletter. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had 30 days to answer the amended application. On October 30, 2002, DEP sent IP an 11-page letter outlining the additional material which was required before they could approve or deny the permit application. IP had until December 20, 2002 to submit the additional information. The material which IP was required to submit was not only time-consuming but also costly. Basically, IP and ECUA (because ECUA is also part of the plan) must demonstrate that the new discharge is not going to harm Perdido Bay. One of the ways they will have to demonstrate this is through environmental modeling.
Back in the early 1990's, the old owner of the paper mill, Champion, was required to do environmental modeling to establish Water Quality Based Effluent Limitations (WQBELs) in Eleven Mile Creek and Perdido Bay. WQBEL limits are more stringent than the limits imposed by the federal standards for paper mills (called technology based effluent limitations). The Clean Water Act requires industries which discharge into bodies of water which do not meet water quality standards, to determine what levels of pollutants can be discharged without degrading that body of water. Champion hired a modeling expert, Tom Gallager and his firm, Hydroqual, to do the environmental modeling. Tom Gallager is considered to be an honest scientist. Hydroqual issued a report, but water quality based effluent limitations were never established for the paper mill. The paper mill releases huge qualities of partially decayed solids (8,000 pounds per day) which settle to the bottom and use up the dissolved oxygen. I suspect that during certain times of the year when Perdido Bay becomes "stratified" with fresh water floating on top of salt water, the paper mill's effluent limitations for biological oxygen demand (BOD caused by decaying of paper mill solids) and for Total Suspended Solids (TSS) would be 0. That would mean that the paper mill could not discharge an effluent. They would have to contain their effluent on site until environmental conditions were such that the effluent would not harm Perdido Bay. We know of one paper mill on the Tennessee River which has to contain their effluent until the flow in the river is sufficient to handle the effluent.
While the environmental modeling firm of Hydroqual never released water quality based effluent limitations for the paper mill, another scientist tried. Dr. Robert Livingston, an FSU biologist who is NOT an environmental modeler, tried to calculate "safe" limits for nitrogen and phosphorus. His calculations involve using nitrogen and phosphorus values from 1989 and 1990 in Perdido Bay. Dr. Livingston considered 1989 and 1990 years to be "model" years for plant nutrients. Dr. Livingston totally ignored the reported "blooms" of algae for these years which were caused by excessive plant nutrients. Particularly noteworthy of Dr. Livingston's attempt, was his disregard of the main pollutants which are released by the paper mills, BOD and TSS. Dr. Livingston did not mention the organic material which was released by the paper mill and which is the known problem with paper mill effluent. In IP's recent permit application, even they question why Livingston had not addressed the problem of BOD and TSS. It is very curious.
So having to establish water quality based effluent limitations for BOD and TSS, as well as the plant nutrients of nitrogen and phosphorous for Perdido Bay is going to require more environmental modeling and a lot more time. IP and ECUA were not able to get the modeling or additional material to DEP for the December 20th deadline. The deadline has been extended to January 28, 2003. One ECUA engineer said they probably were not going to be able to meet this date either. The big question is "Is it possible for IP to get a valid permit for Perdido Bay even if they go to a wetland discharge?" I am beginning to doubt that they can.
Ester Johnson Lawsuit.
As the permitting woes of IP continue in Perdido Bay, the progress of Ester Johnson's lawsuit becomes very interesting. Ester's lawsuit has been changed to a class action lawsuit which involves all waterfront owners on Perdido Bay. How many of these waterfront owners are aware that they are involved in a "class-action"? There has been no publicity about Ester's lawsuit even though the outcome will affect all property owners on Perdido Bay. In the end, when a settlement has been agreed upon, there normally will be a legal notice published which will affect every ones rights but which few people will read. The settlement will be binding on everyone and will most likely eliminate any lawsuits in the future. Settlement of this lawsuit could very possibly assure IP of a permit for Perdido Bay in spite of the fact that they can really not get a "legal" permit.
Right now, the lawsuit is going into a "mediation" phase. The results of the mediation will be binding on all parties including class members on Perdido Bay. The dates for the mediation are scheduled for February 11 and 12, 2003. Ester's attorney, Steve Media who is associated now with the Levin Law firm, related to me what is going to be requested for the class members on Perdido Bay. The Levin firm is going to ask that as settlement a fund of money be put aside for additional evaluation of the wetland proposal and follow-up testing once the plan is implemented, that an ultimate time line be established for completion of the project and that damages be paid to the class members. This pool of money will be administered by a group which will include Ester, Carol Moore, an investigator with the Levin firm, and Linda Young. Ester has told me she agrees with this settlement however she wants the paper mill to close down until the clean-up is complete. She said the Judge in this case, Judge Jones wants the case settled. I am an Intervener in this case, and as such, am not a member of the class.
We will try to keep the class members informed of what is going on in this case. It definitely will affect our properties on Perdido Bay.
Perdido Bay is still on the Florida's "Impaired Waters" list
In October 2002, the Florida DEP sent the EPA Florida's list of waters which do not meet water quality standards. The list of waters which do not meet water quality standards is called the 303 d list. According to the Clean Water Act, dischargers (polluters) who discharge into waters which are on the 303d list must have pollution limits which are more strict than the federal guidelines based on technology only. These more strict limits are called water quality based effluent limitations (see the above article on More Stalling). Alabama does not list Perdido Bay as "impaired" even though Friends of Perdido Bay has sent Alabama's environmental agency data which shows Perdido Bay is impaired. Florida does list Perdido Bay as impaired. Recently Florida has tried to redefine what is required to be listed as "impaired". I believe that the whole reason for writing a new rule to develop Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) was to redefine "impaired". Florida, through the TMDL rule, has redefined impaired to mean waters which in addition to not meeting water quality standards, must meet a long list of other criteria. Right now, Florida's definition of impaired in the TMDL rule is not the same definition as that in section 303d of the Clean Water Act. Florida's TMDL rule is being challenged before the Appellate Courts. According to a DEP spokesperson, all waters bodies which were on the DEP's 1998 impaired waters list remain on DEP's 2002 impaired waters list except for a few water bodies where the new TMDL rule was applied. Fortunately for Perdido Bay, the DEP will not get around to using the new definition of impairment on Perdido Bay for several years (assuming the TMDL rule is upheld in the appeals court). So until Perdido Bay is kicked off the list (and it probably will be under the new definition), it will remain on the impaired waters list. Therefore, the paper mill has to develop water quality based effluent limitations to discharge into Perdido Bay. Maybe this is the whole point of stalling - to wait for Perdido Bay to be taken off the impaired waters list so that the paper mill will not have to meet stricter limits. Actually, if the paper mill is allowed to go to technology-based limits, they would be allowed to discharge much more solids and BOD into Perdido Bay than they presently do.
Public Comment and an Important Public Meeting
For the past year, a special committee of citizens appointed by the Escambia County Utilities Authority (ECUA) has been considering a proposal to move the wastewater treatment plant which is located downtown, the Mainstreet Plant. For years, certain people have been trying to get the Mainstreet Plant moved since they have thought that the plant has prohibited growth in the downtown area. An engineering firm was hired to look at all the possibilities and list the top three most feasible choices, including leaving the plant where it is. On January 13, 2003, the first public meeting will take place. The public is invited to come and look at demonstrations and given written comment about the feasibility study. Unfortunately, you will receive this news letter after January 13, however, you can make public comment until January 31, 2003. We are asking people to write and say we do not want any more wastewater brought into the Perdido Bay watershed. Send comments to: ECUA Main Street WWTP Feasibility Study; c/o ECUA Engineering Department; P.O. Box 15311; Pensacola, FL 32514.
This is a massive project. The Mainstreet Plant is at the bottom of the hill into which a series of sewer pipes bring 15 million gallons of domestic wastewater. The Mainstreet Plant was upgraded several years ago, but experienced difficulties in meeting its projected limits. Over the past seven months however, ECUA personnel, along with help from consultants, have managed to achieve compliance with the strict limits which have been placed on the plant.
The IP/ECUA project will be the subject of a public meeting/public comment on January 28, 2003 beginning at 6:30 PM. The meeting will be held in Room 215, 2nd floor of the ECUA Customer Service Building, 9255 Sturdevant Street, Ellyson Industrial Park. According to ECUA personnel, no oral presentations will be presented, only displays and demonstrations will be available for the public to look at. Engineers will also be available for questions. Although I have not seen a formal announcement, you can probably send comments to: IP/ECUA pipeline, wetland project at the same address as above. Plan on attending this meeting if you have questions.