U.S. Water News Online
BANGOR, Maine -- Two environmental groups have sued
International Paper Co., alleging its wastewater pollutes the
Androscoggin River below its Jay mill in violation of state and
federal water-quality standards.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court by the Natural
Resources Council of Maine and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The groups assert that Maine and federal laws require the mill to
have a permit to discharge polluted wastewater into the river, but
Stamford, Conn.-based IP has not had one for two decades. They say
the last valid permit issued to the company was in 1985, and it was
for just one year.
"The river belongs to the people of Maine and it is past time to
clean it up," said Brownie Carson, executive director of the Natural
Resources Council of Maine, adding the suit asks IP to clean up the
river and operate with a valid permit.
IP spokeswoman Fiona McCaul said the paper mill has been operating
legally under federal, state and local rules.
"The last federal discharge permit we received was issued in 1985.
Since then, we've voluntarily reduced our limits in cooperation with
state, federal and local authorities," McCaul said from her office in
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection released a new
draft discharge permit for the mill. The last state permit was issued
in 1997, she said, and the last town and federal permits were issued
in 2002 and 1985.
"All parties agree that water quality in the Androscoggin River
needs continued improvement," McCaul said. "How we get there should
be determined by sound sceience and common sense, not emotions."
The environmental groups say the Jay mill pours about 40 million
gallons a day of wastewater into the Androscoggin. They say pollution
from the effluent violates water quality standards by lowering oxygen
levels in river water so that native fish species, such as trout,
The pollution also causes algae to form on the river in the
summer, making the water unfit for swimming and further lowering
dissolved oxygen levels, and affects creatures that live at the
bottom of the river below the IP mill.
IP, the world's largest paper company, announced a major
restructuring plan earlier this month that could result in the sale
of its two Maine mills. As of December 2003, the company operated 36
pulp, paper and packaging mills and 132 converting and packaging
plants among other facilities. It owns 8.3 million acres of land in
the United States.
Hoping to boost profits and cut debt, the company is looking at
selling $8 billion to $10 billion in assets, including millions of
acres of forestland around the country, closing mills and possibly
relocating its Connecticut headquarters.
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