Saturday, November 12, 2011

We deserve answers on Georgia-Pacific's pipeline

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By Neil Armingeon

If one only reads the propaganda and sees the misleading advertising campaign by the Georgia-Pacific paper mill in Palatka, you would think that GP and their proposed pipeline are actually good for our St. Johns River.

However, the truth is that GeorgiaPacific and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection continue to avoid valid questions from qualified experts about ongoing pollution problems at the mill.

Thankfully, Councilman Jim Love recently introduced a resolution that opposes the issuance of a wastewater discharge permit until all questions have been answered, including those regarding dioxin.

Since 2008, the St. Johns Riverkeeper has been seeking answers to questions about dioxin and other pollutants that are discharged by the Georgia-Pacific mill.

On June 17, we sent a list of technical questions to the Department of Environmental Regulation that we believe must be answered before a permit decision is made.

These questions were developed with the analysis of two highly respected experts with decades of experience in the pulp and paper industry. Unfortunately, we are still waiting for answers to those questions.

The St. Johns Riverkeeper has also sent three letters to Gov. Rick Scott this year expressing our concerns.

The most recent letter on Sept. 12 included nearly 4,000 petitions that we have collected from citizens opposed to the pipeline. We are still waiting for a reply.

In September 2008, samples of the wastewater showed high levels of the cancer-causing compound dioxin. As a result, Georgia-Pacific was ordered to conduct more tests.
We are waiting for those tests to be completed.

Communities downstream of the mill simply want to make sure that no harm will come to our river from the pipeline, and Scott and the Department of Environmental Regulation have a responsibility to protect public health and our river.

We call on them to fulfill this responsibility by answering the questions that remain about Georgia-Pacific's ongoing pollution problems and by following through with more testing.
Unfortunately, on Monday three council members (Johnny Gaffney, Richard Clark, and Don Redman) did not seem to share those same concerns for the river and voted against Love's sensible resolution.

State Rep. Lake Ray also sided with Georgia-Pacific and the pipeline over the health of the St. Johns.
Despite the lack of support from some of our elected officials, we will continue to seek answers and to hold those accountable for their actions.
The St. Johns River and the communities of Northeast Florida deserve nothing less.

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