As Georgia-Pacific continues to fight Florida environmental groups and the state Department of Environmental Protection over the waste that it dumps into the Sunshine State’s rivers and streams, the paper company may be headed for similarly heated battles elsewhere.
Georgia-Pacific makes Dixie cups, Brawny paper towels, and Angel Soft toilet paper, among other paper products, and is a division of Koch Industries.
The Ouachita Riverkeeper, which strives to maintain the quality of the Ouachita River as it snakes through Arkansas and Louisiana, has alleged that Georgia-Pacific is destroying the Ouachita ecosystem by flooding the river with waste in violation of regulations that have already come under attack in the past for being too lax.
In a YouTube video, Ouachita Riverkeeper Cheryl Slavant details the violations that she says are ongoing at Georgia-Pacific’s Crossett, Ark., plant:
Slavant tells The American Independent that although Georgia-Pacific’s daily allowance of wastewater is officially listed as 45 million gallons, she got the figure of 85 million from attending an Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) hearing.
ADEQ spokesperson Cecilia Pond-Mayo says that the permit is, in fact, for the lower number of 45 million. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a national environmental oversight organization, also uses the 45 million gallon figure. Salvant, however, still isn’t convinced that Georgia-Pacific isn’t dumping far more waste into the Ouachita River than it’s supposed to. “I’ve been monitoring that site for several years and there’s more water coming from that discharge point now than there ever was,” she says. “It’s a gushing waterfall instead of a trickle.”
One of the main effluents from the plant is “black liquor,” a resinous byproduct of paper production. Black liquor can actually be used as a fuel source as an alternative to coal and natural gas, but not all paper plants have installed the costly equipment to turn black liquor into fuel. Slavant contends that Georgia-Pacific has been dumping it into the water rather than treating it.
Spokespersons for Georgia-Pacific could not be reached for comment on whether the Crossett plant uses the “gasification” process employed to make usable fuel out of black liquor.
Georgia-Pacific has been meeting its permit, according to ADEQ reviews of the site, reports Pond-Mayo. Pond-Mayo tells the Independent that the site most prominently featured in the Riverkeeper video is part of Georgia-Pacific’s wastewater treatment plant and that the water that actually enters the Ouachita River via tributary Coffee Creek is far cleaner.
Savant remains skeptical. She and PEER have now filed a complaint with the EPA to have the agency review the site for potential violations.
In 2007, the EPA found that the “no aquatic life use” designation of Coffee Creek that allows Georgia-Pacific to dump more wastewater into Coffee Creek than it could dump directly into the Ouachita River was questionable. The EPA determined that if companies like Georgia-Pacific were barred from dumping waste and chemicals into the water, Coffee Creek could support aquatic life. The EPA recommended that the creek be reclassified by the ADEQ, but it could not enforce its recommendation with regulation.
Pond-Mayo says that the ADEQ is currently developing a usability analysis to evaluate the EPA claims and potentially appeal the recommendation.
Kyle Daly reports for The American Independent.