Pulp and paper company Georgia-Pacific, which has long been considered one of the St. Johns River’s prime polluters, is set to meet with members of Jacksonville’s Environmental Protection Board, as well as representatives from Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection next Monday.
According to G-P spokesman Jeremy Alexander, the meeting will likely focus on the company’s plans to comply with water quality standards.
Among G-P’s improvement goals for the next two years: A 20 percent reduction in water conductivity, a 30 percent reduction in color and “100 percent compliance with the effluent limits needed to assure that full water quality standards are consistently met in the St. Johns River.”
A letter, sent last year by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, set requirements the mill had to meet before starting construction on a pipeline to the St. Johns that would theoretically reduce the nutrient impact on nearby Rice Creek by redirecting waste into the river. On July 15, G-P detailed letter the actions it has taken to satisfy the requirements set forth in the June letter.
Alexander describes the board as “a very engaged group with diverse backgrounds and experiences they bring to the table … Many of them have long been engaged in various environmental organizations and some have different technical areas of expertise (some engineers, a doctor or two and other life experiences that add value to the conversation). All in all, it is a challenging group which results in healthy dialogue and good outcomes.”
G-P’s mill is located about 60 miles south of Jacksonville and employs more than 1,200 full-time workers. The company has a website solely devoted to detailing environmental efforts being made at the mill, which touts environmental upgrades of over $20 million that have led to a 73 percent reduction in released phosphorus, as well as a 54 percent reduction in released nitrogen. Nitrogen and Phosphorus have long been seen as likely culprits for the appearance of algal blooms in many parts of the St. Johns. In recent weeks, the algal blooms have appeared to be quite harmful in the St. Johns, as their appearance has coincided with a rash of fish and bird deaths, as well as a new, mysterious foam seen lurking around the river.