St. Johns Riverkeeper, city officials renew call for reevaluation of Georgia-Pacific pipeline

By | 10.17.11 | 3:56 pm

Pollution in the St. Johns River (Pic by deadgirlsdontdance, via Flickr)

At a press conference held today in downtown Jacksonville, leaders from the St. Johns Riverkeeper and the Jacksonville City Council again touted their firm stance against the construction of Georgia-Pacific’s hotly contested pipeline, which would reroute waste from the company’s Palatka plant directly into the St. Johns River.

Georgia-Pacific’s Palatka mill has pumped its effluent into Rice Creek since 1976, but, because it is not meeting certain color and conductivity standards, an administrative law judge ordered that the company build a four-mile pipeline to reroute much of its effluent into the St. Johns, a larger (and arguably more important) waterbody.

The St. Johns Riverkeeper, an environmental watchdog group based in Jacksonville, has long maintained that the Putnam County mill could make additional improvements to meet water quality standards instead of constructing the pipeline, allowing them to stay in Rice Creek and out of the river.

Jacksonville City Council member Jim Love recently introduced a resolution that would delay the wastewater discharge permit for Georgia-Pacific’s Palatka mill, allowing for further study of the pipeline’s environmental impacts. The Jacksonville City Council’s Waterways Commission endorsed that resolution in a 6-5 vote.

Love was on hand at today’s press conference, telling reporters that his recently filed resolution simply “calls for the [Florida Department of Environmental Protection] to not give the final permit to Georgia-Pacific.”

The Riverkeeper’s Neil Armingeon cited a recent letter penned by Lucinda Sonnenberg, a research professor at Jacksonville University and a former scientist with the Department of Environmental Protection, which alleges that two separate sampling events have  shown levels of toxic dioxin in Georgia-Pacific’s effluent. Sonnenberg bases those allegations on a 2009 USEPA High Volume Sampling study and a 2009 Legacy Solids study performed by Georgia-Pacific, studies she says reveal that dioxin concentrations are “nearly 20 times the water quality criterion.”

Armingeon said today that the Riverkeeper firmly supports Love’s resolution, and hopes that the Department of Environmental Protection will take a closer look at samples of Georgia-Pacific effluent before making the final permit decision on the pipeline.

“Let’s see where they stand on dioxin before approving the pipeline,” said Armingeon.

According to its website, Georgia-Pacific is “one of the world’s leading manufacturers of tissue, pulp, paper, packaging, building products and related chemicals.” The company is owned by Koch Industries, led by Charles and David Koch, billionaire brothers who have given more than $100 million to right-wing causes, according to The New Yorker.

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