St. Johns Riverkeeper Releases Results of GP Pipeline Review | Environment

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St. Johns Riverkeeper Releases Results of GP Pipeline Review

Recently, St. Johns RIVERKEEPER® hired a team of water quality and engineering experts to conduct a technical peer review of a key Georgia-Pacific (GP) study that is being used to validate the need for a pipeline to the St. Johns River. The results of this independent engineering analysis indicate that the Georgia-Pacific study is incomplete and does not adequately address important questions regarding GP’s wastewater effluent and treatment ponds.  The peer review recommends that a final decision regarding the proposed pipeline should be immediately put on hold until a more comprehensive and independent technical-economic analysis can be performed. 

The Georgia-Pacific (GP) paper mill in Palatka has been discharging its wastewater into Rice Creek, a tributary of the St. Johns, since 1947.  The mill can no longer meet water quality standards in Rice Creek, so GP plans to build a nearly 4-mile long pipeline to divert its wastewater into the heart of the St. Johns River.

In 2009, Georgia-Pacific retained Brown and Caldwell (BC) to complete a “Wastewater Treatment Alternatives Evaluation” (Technical Memorandum 3) of the Palatka mill to determine the feasibility and capability of wastewater treatment alternatives that would allow GP to continue to discharge to Rice Creek.  The Brown and Caldwell study, published in July 2010, failed to identify any cost-effective treatment alternatives, instead suggesting that the pipeline to the St. Johns River was the preferred option.  

For years, St. Johns RIVERKEEPER has contended that viable, cost-effective alternatives to the pipeline exist that have not been fully evaluated by Georgia-Pacific or the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).   As a result, St. Johns RIVERKEEPER retained Greenovative Design and Engineering, LLC (GDE) to conduct an objective technical and economic appraisal of the Brown and Caldwell study (Technical Memorandum 3).

According to the Greenovative Design and Engineering, LLC (GDE) technical peer review, Brown and Caldwell (BC) did not fully evaluate all available alternatives, and instead seemed to focus on those technologies that are not particularly feasible.  GDE also concludes that BC did not conduct a full-spectrum qualitative physical chemical analysis of the effluent discharge. Therefore, any conclusions about treatment technologies should be considered incomplete and/or questionable.  Brown and Caldwell also acknowledged that legacy solids in GP’s treatment ponds were a potential source of pollutants, yet BC listed the dredging and disposal of these solids last on its list of potential alternatives.

Therefore, Greenovative Design and Engineering, LLC (GDE) concludes that a comprehensive independent analysis of Georgia-Pacific’s wastewater system could produce a significant cost-benefit advantage for GP and possibly eliminate the need for the St. Johns River pipeline. 

“We have always contended that viable alternatives exist, and the pipeline is not the answer to Georgia-Pacific’s pollution problems,” said St. Johns Riverkeeper Neil Armingeon. “As a result, we used our limited resources to hire a qualified engineering firm to take another look at the study GP is using to justify the pipeline.  The analysis we received exposes the shortcomings of the GP study and validates many of our concerns.”

The release of this technical peer review closely follows St. Johns RIVERKEEPER’s launch of the Cleaner GP awareness campaign.  The campaign encourages Georgia-Pacific (GP) to abandon its plans to build a pipeline to the St. Johns River and to pursue alternative solutions to its wastewater pollution problems.   The campaign and website call on citizens to sign a petition to Governor Rick Scott asking him to require further toxicity testing of Georgia-Pacific’s wastewater and to require GP to find an acceptable alternative that will protect the health of the St. Johns River. 

Armingeon explains, “We are asking Governor Scott to do what is best for the St. Johns River, Georgia-Pacific, and the citizens and businesses downstream of the mill --identify technologies that will allow GP to stay in Rice Creek and not put the health of the St. Johns River at risk.”

The entire GDE report and a summary can be found at in the “Get the Facts” section.


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