This is the Tallahassee Democrat's reporter Bruce Ritchie's account
of the EPA hearing on the Fenholloway River, Earth Day, April 22, 2004.
Note: a "pollution permit": sounds like more of the same, doesn't it??
Posted on Fri, Apr. 23, 2004
Mill urges EPA to allow permit
Hearing held to decide fate of pipeline
By Bruce Ritchie
DEMOCRAT STAFF WRITER
PERRY - Buckeye Florida officials and plant supporters on Thursday
urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to allow Florida to
issue a pollution permit for the pulp mill to help restore the
EPA officials were in town to hold a hearing on whether the mill should
be allowed to pipe wastewater 17 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. The
federal agency in 1998 challenged Florida's proposed permit for the
pipeline and held the hearing to receive comment on those objections.
With 650 workers, Buckeye Florida is one of the largest employers in
Taylor County. And more than 200 people, many wearing stickers saying
"restore the river - return the permit," were at the hearing Thursday.
"At this point there is no remaining justification for EPA to maintain
its objections," said John Crowe, president of Buckeye Technologies
Inc., which owns Buckeye Florida.
Some residents and environmentalists who spoke at the hearing said the
EPA shouldn't allow the state to issue the permit. They said the mill
should do more to reduce pollution and to clean up the Fenholloway
River without moving the pollution to the Gulf.
An EPA official said the agency would decide whether to modify its
objections, but he didn't say when a decision could be made. He said if
the Department of Environmental Protection failed to issue a proposed
permit that met the revised EPA objections, then the federal agency
would take over the permitting for the plant.
Wastewater used in the production of wood pulp and cellulose at the
Buckeye Florida plant near Perry flows about 24 miles to the Gulf.
There the dark water blocks out sunlight, killing native sea grass.
Dioxin, a group of hazardous chemical compounds that persist in the
environment, also has been detected in fish along the river.
A five-year study issued by the state in 1994 recommended building a
pipeline to clean up the river. DEP proposed issuing a pipeline permit
in 1997, but the EPA blocked the move.
The EPA recommended that the plant make further improvements to reduce
its pollution rather than build the pipeline. And the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service said that moving the discharge could cause other
environmental problems in the river and the Gulf.
The river was reclassified from industrial to "fishable-swimmable" in
1998, though it fails to meet the new standard, DEP says.
DEP officials said in 2002 they were seeking alternatives to building a
pipeline. A department official said last month that the state is
waiting for EPA to set pollution limits for the river to determine how
to proceed on the issue.
On Thursday, a DEP representative said that some wastewater
improvements have been made at the plant but that others could be made
to meet the EPA's objections. Further improvements, he said, would help
sea grasses recover and remove any dioxin that may be in the
"We would think a modification to your objections would be in order,"
Jerry Brooks, deputy director of DEP's water resources division, told
the EPA officials.
Representatives of U.S. Rep. Allen Boyd, D-Monticello, and Taylor
County business groups said they want the EPA to allow Florida to
retain permitting authority.
Company officials said they've made $64 million worth of improvements
since 1994. The Florida Department of Health last September lifted an
advisory against eating fish in the river.
Several plant workers expressed frustration that the permitting process
had taken so long. They said that the process was creating uncertainty
about the company's future and that Buckeye Florida's competitors were
using it to their advantage.
"How many more times are we going to study this?" asked Dave Weeden, a
plant employee. "What information can we possibly provide?"
Environmentalists and some area residents criticized the company for
not having done enough to clean up the river.
"We are not talking about just a river," said George Stamos of Keaton
Beach. "We are not talking about just jobs. We are talking about our
A cooperative effort, launched in 2002 with environmental groups, state
and federal agency representatives and company officials, failed to
produce an agreement on how to clean up the river.
Clean Water Network representative Linda Young said wastewater
improvements can be made without building the pipeline to the Gulf or
putting the company out of business.
"It has never been our intention to close the mill," Young said.
Contact reporter Bruce Ritchie at (850) 599-2253 or
"We are the ones we have been waiting for."
Joy Towles Ezell
HOPE (Help Our Polluted Environment) In Taylor County, Florida
Friends of the Fenholloway River
850 584 7087