U.S. Water News Online
PENSACOLA, Fla. -- A new plan for cleaning up paper mill
pollution streaming into Perdido Bay at the western end of the
Florida Panhandle is being questioned by Alabama's attorney general
and federal fisheries officials.
The $61 million project would send effluent from the International
Paper Co. mill to a new municipal sewage plant for treatment.
Up to 37.5 million gallons of treated wastewater then would be
piped daily into a 1,500-acre wetland that would act as a natural
filter as it flows toward the bay on the Florida-Alabama state line.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has let the
mill operate although its effluent fails to meet state water quality
standards while the company tries to come up with a solution. The
agency is seeking public comment before deciding whether to approve
Alabama Attorney General Troy King expressed reservations, in a
letter to DEP, about a nine-year compliance window and the mill's
contingency plans should the new system fall short.
"It would appear that after all the construction of all
improvements, if the discharge still doesn't meet applicable water
quality standards and permit limitations, the IP can continue to seek
exceptions to those requirements," King wrote.
That would, in effect, drag out compliance "to some unforeseeable
date in the future," he continued.
The National Marine Fisheries Service's Habitat Conservation
Division has recommended that DEP deny a permit because 70 percent of
the wastewater would flow from the wetlands through two lakes on its
way to the bay. The rest would go through Eleven Mile Creek, the
present path for all the mill's effluent.
The lakes are essential habitat for shrimp and red drum, and thus
are protected by law, wrote Miles M. Croon, the division's assistant
regional administrator. He suggested all the wastewater be diverted
toward the creek.
Wade Nutter, an International Paper consultant, has assured DEP
that the system "will meet water quality standards and objectives and
will benefit the environment."
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