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Press Office
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 11, 2010
CONTACT: Dee Ann Miller – 850.245.2112 (office), 850.519.2898 (cell)


Statement from DEP Secretary Michael W. Sole Regarding Issuance of Final Order for International Paper Company (IP)

TALLAHASSEE – “After careful consideration and based on the conclusions of Judge Bram D.E. Canter’s recommendation, I have signed a Final Order to approve International Paper’s permit application and the company-planned reconfiguration of its Pensacola Mill at Cantonment in Escambia County.

“The final order will, after years of legal challenges, issue a permit for the mill. The permit strictly outlines all of the necessary improvements International Paper needs to make in order to protect the area’s natural resources as well as enhance the biological diversity and productivity of the nearby wetlands.

“Specifically, the permit requires International Paper to upgrade their wastewater treatment and relocate the existing discharge from Eleven Mile Creek to an effluent distribution system in a 1,381 acre wetland tract, with an additional 1,188 acres that will be managed as a conservation area. These changes in land management activities and the relocation and modification of the effluent distribution system will result in the restoration of the historic ecosystems. The permit also requires IP to achieve compliance with all water quality standards and permit limits by the end of the consent order.

“We look forward to working with both International Paper and community members to ensure that the mill’s enhancements protect the region’s natural resources and economy.”

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

What is being announced?
Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Michael W. Sole today signed a Final Order adopting the Administrative Law Judge’s Recommended Order and approving a proposed permit and Consent Order for International Paper Company (IP). The permit authorizes a company-planned reconfiguration of its Pensacola Mill’s wastewater treatment and disposal system. The mill is located near the town of Cantonment in Escambia County. DEP’s Final Order specifically approves the proposed National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit and the proposed Consent Order.

What are the environmental benefits of the new permit?
IP’s permit and accompanying consent order will result in an upgrade of its industrial wastewater treatment plant and relocation of its discharge from upper Eleven Mile Creek to a 1,400-acre wetland tract located 10 miles south of the mill. There, the mill’s effluent would be distributed and would flow into lower Eleven Mile Creek and Perdido Bay. IP’s use of the wetland tract will set the Eleven Mile Creek on a course of recovery, improve the environmental health of Perdido Bay, and set aside substantial areas of important habitat for permanent protection.

What type of permit has the facility been operating under?
IP’s pulp and paper mill has been operating under an administratively continued 1989 wastewater permit and Consent Order. The Consent Order, which accompanied the permit, required the mill to conduct water quality studies and engineering evaluations, and develop plans to achieve compliance with water quality criteria for Eleven Mile Creek and Perdido Bay. By 1995, IP – then known as Champion International – had invested millions of dollars in mill modifications toward meeting this requirement.

When did the facility apply for a proposed permit?
On April 5, 2005, DEP noticed its intent to approve the requested NPDES Permit to authorize the industrial wastewater treatment improvements, including relocation of the discharge from Elevenmile Creek to the wetland, and three other agency actions (proposed Consent Order, an order allowing the experimental use of the wetland, and waiver to allow public access to Tee and Wicker Lakes which are a part of the proposed treatment wetlands).

These actions were petitioned by the Friends of Perdido Bay and additional residents near the mill in May 2005, and an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) within the Department of Administrative Hearings was assigned to the case. An administrative hearing on the proposed permit began on May 31, 2006, and concluded on July 28, 2006. The ALJ entered his Recommended Order on May 11, 2007, recommending DEP deny the proposed agency actions.

On August 8, 2007, DEP entered a Final Order adopting the ALJ’s recommendations.

On August 10, 2007, IP filed an appeal of DEP’s Final Order with the First District Court of Appeal. The company requested the Department grant a stay of the Final Order to allow IP’s Pensacola Mill to continue to operate while the appeal process moves forward.

On August 22, 2007, the Department entered an Order granting IP’s request for a stay of DEP’s Final Order, and placed additional requirements on IP’s discharge.

When did the facility apply for the current proposed permit?
After the 2007 Final Order, IP conducted additional studies, modified the project and re-applied for the four authorizations. In July 2008, the Department issued its Notice of Intent to issue an NPDES permit, a Consent Order, an exception for the experimental use of wetlands and a variance for the modified project. Petitioners, Jacqueline Lane, Friends of Perdido Bay, Inc., and James Lane, challenged DEP’s four proposed agency actions. Prior to final hearing, IP withdrew its request for the exception for the experimental use of wetlands and variance. After final hearing in the matter, and being bound by certain findings in the DEP’s 2007 Final Order, ALJ Canter entered an order recommending the DEP enter a Final Order granting NPDES Permit No. FL0002526 and approving Consent Order No. 08-0358 for the IP Pensacola Mill.

What are the next steps?
Any party with standing may appeal the Final Order to the First District Court of Appeal within 30 days of entry of the Final Order.

View the Final Order.

Michael W. Sole

"The final order will, after years of legal challenges, issue a permit for the mill. The permit strictly outlines all of the necessary improvements International Paper needs to make in order to protect the area’s natural resources as well as enhance the biological diversity and productivity of the nearby wetlands."

Michael W. Sole
DEP Secretary

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10–041

Last updated: March 12, 2010

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