Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Putnam Mill Says Runoff Not a Danger to Humans; Georgia-Pacific's Paper Mill Has Effluent That Empties into St. Johns

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Putnam Mill Says Runoff Not a Danger to Humans; Georgia-Pacific's Paper Mill Has Effluent That Empties into St. Johns

Article excerpt

Byline: STEVE PATTERSON

A Putnam County paper mill told state regulators Tuesday that levels of cancer-causing dioxin in its wastewater ponds are minute and pose no hazard.

A report from Georgia-Pacific's mill near Palatka estimated that 900 acres of ponds hold about 140 million pounds of sediment - but just one-tenth of an ounce of dioxin. What this means remains an open question.

The report could end up influencing a running debate about whether the mill can build a pipeline to route its wastewater into the St. Johns River, an idea that has been widely criticized by environmental groups.

The findings were part of a package of information Florida's Department of Environmental Protection told the company to file after a February report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said wastewater from the plant contained more dioxin than federal laws allow.

While a company spokesman said the findings show no danger to the public, an environmental activist argued the mill is contaminating water that enters the river.

"All of this changed nothing. They're discharging illegal amounts of dioxin into the water," said Linda Young, director of the Clean Water Network of Florida. "They're right where they started. They have a huge dioxin problem."

Environmental rules typically limit the amount of pollutants allowed in wastewater, rather than in the debris that shakes out of the wastewater before it leaves a plant. The state ordered this latest assessment as part of a plan to decide whether the dioxin measured recently in wastewater came from decades-old pond muck, but that's a decision for the state to make.

State officials need time to study the reports carefully before making any decisions, said Jodi Conway, a DEP spokeswoman.

The mill also supplied details on salt that's released with the wastewater, as well as other details about its operations. …

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