View Larger MapThe state Environmental Regulation Commission on Thursday approved a rule allowing the Buckeye Florida pulp mill near Perry to discharge a darker wastewater than previously had been allowed.
The mill, built in 1954, is the largest employer in Taylor County with more than 500 workers. Buckeye also has been the target of environmentalists and their disputes with regulatory agencies because of the mill’s historic pollution of the Fenholloway River. Buckeye has proposed building a 15-mile pipeline from the plant to near the mouth of the Fenholloway at the Gulf of Mexico to discharge 41 million gallons per day of treated wastewater.
The dark brown discharge was blamed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection during the 1990s for killing 10 square miles of sea grass in the Gulf. But DEP now says sea grasses have grown back as the company has reduced the darkness of the discharge by half since the early 1990s. The company has spent more than $90 million on plant upgrades to reduce pollution, said Ray Andreu, the plant’s manager of environmental and regulatory affairs. He said there is no technology available to further reduce the color of the discharge.
But the Clean Water Network of Florida opposed the rule change, pointing to other pulp mills that have further reduced their color. Linda Young, the group’s director, said the proposed pipeline permit would allow the continued pollution of the river and Gulf. But she was cut off by ERC Chairman Don Ross, who said the panel wasn’t considering the proposed permit that would allow the pipeline.
“We expected it,” Young said after the meeting. “There shouldn’t be blatant disregard for what the public brings to this discussion.”
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