Company Rejects Government-Environmental Group Proposals to Clean Up River
TALLAHASSEE (December 8, 2003) - In a meeting with environmentalists and state and federal officials last Friday, Buckeye Technologies rejected government-supported cleanup proposals for the Fenholloway River and insisted that it be allowed to construct a pipeline to discharge toxic pollution directly into the Gulf of Mexico.
Currently the pulp mill is dumping this pollution, which includes dioxins and nutrients, into the Fenholloway River, which then flows into the gulf. The company has proposed to build a pipeline to circumvent the Fenholloway, but does not want to clean up the damage it already has done.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Clean Water Network and NRDC (the Natural Resources Defense Council) want the company to restore the river and stop discharging hazardous pollutants into it. The agencies and organizations have been working with Buckeye for nearly three years to find ways to clean up the company's pollution.
"We spent years exploring options, and we now know we have the technology to clean up this problem," said Linda Young, director of the Southeast Clean Water Network. "But Buckeye still wants Floridians to pay for its mess twice -- with our pocketbooks and our health. Cleaning up this toxic pollution is the price Buckeye is going to have to pay to do business, and we will make sure the company's discharge permit is rewritten to bring the Fenholloway back from the dead."
Buckeye's discharge permit expired in 1995. Three years later, EPA rejected the company's proposed permit to build a pipeline to pump about 50 million gallons a day of effluent into the gulf. At that time, Florida DEP supported the permit proposal, but last Friday, DEP's deputy division director of water resources, Jerry Brooks, said that the department no longer does given that the technology exists to clean up the toxic discharges.
EPA is required to hold a hearing on the vetoed permit no later than next May. At that point, Florida DEP will have the opportunity to propose a stronger permit that implements the recommendations developed by EPA, DEP and the environmental groups.
"State and federal officials are in a much different position than where they were five years ago," said Jessica Landman, senior counsel of NRDC's Water and Coastal Program. "We anticipate that Florida DEP and EPA will redraft the old proposed permit, joining forces with the community in rejecting Buckeye's bid to continue to spew pollution."
Buckeye's current discharge of more than 50 million gallons per day violates federal water quality standards for dissolved oxygen, color (transparency), specific conductance, nutrients, chronic toxicity, biological integrity, dioxin, and some heavy metals. While a pipe to the Gulf of Mexico would dilute the company's discharge more than the Fenholloway River, the effluent would still violate water quality standards for most of the pollutants.
The Clean Water Network, NRDC, Florida DEP and EPA have proposed that Buckeye install oxygen delignification technology to reduce its use of chlorine, which generates dioxin byproducts; a new aerated sludge treatment system, and possibly a wetlands treatment system.
The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 550,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.