The 900 acres of wastewater ponds are a likely source of GP’s dioxin problem.

December 16, 2011: As we have previously reported, Jacksonville City Council Member Jim Love introduced a resolution opposing the issuance of the Georgia-Pacific (GP) wastewater discharge permit until all outstanding questions have been answered, including those regarding dioxin.

Considering the fact that significant pollution problems at the Palatka paper mill have yet to be resolved, Love’s resolution was a legitimate attempt to ensure that the St. Johns River will be sufficiently protected and wildlife and people will not be exposed to cancer-causing pollutants.
Love’s resolution was by no means anti-GP, anti-jobs, or unreasonable. If anything, it was pro-river and pro-Jacksonville.  The Councilman simply sought to protect the people and the businesses of Northeast Florida that could potentially be put in harm’s way, if Georgia-Pacific is allowed to begin dumping its wastewater directly into the St. Johns River before these pollution problems are resolved.

Jacksonville and the communities downstream of the mill have so much to potentially lose from this important permit decision, so simply seeking assurance that a thorough analysis has taken place and all questions about pollution have been adequately answered seems more than justified.

After all, the St. Johns is critical to our economy and quality of life. The river sustains a significant number of businesses and thousands of jobs related to commercial and recreational fishing, tourism, real estate, boating, and other marine-related industries that depend upon a clean St. Johns River. Property values on and near the river are directly impacted by the river’s health.

So, surely the rest of Councilman Love’s colleagues shared his concerns and were supportive of his efforts to seek certainty for the citizens of Jacksonville, right? Wrong.

Georgia-Pacific and its hired guns from the Dalton Agency PR firm went all out to influence council members and defeat the non-binding resolution. Representative Lake Ray, the new director of the First Coast Manufacturers Association, used predictable anti-job rhetoric, making claims that Governor Scott may look unfavorably upon Jacksonville if it goes against GP.

Councilman Robin Lumb also jumped on the GP bandwagon, claiming that you would have to drink 400 gallons of GP’s wastewater in order to ingest the amount of dioxin that we are already exposed to from other sources on a daily basis.

As a result, the Love resolution was unfortunately shot down in committee, even after he offered to soften some of the language to make it more palatable to some of the committee members.
Councilman Robin Lumb introduced an alternative resolution that served to undermine Love’s efforts to hold GP and DEP accountable, putting an end to any further discussions about the ongoing pollution problems at the mill. Lumb’s resolution fails to mention dioxin or address the legitimate questions that have been raised by two highly-regarded experts, one a chemical engineer with over 50 years of experience in the pulp and paper industry and the other a chemist at JU hired by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to assist with the evaluation of the mill’s effluent.  

Lumb’s substitute resolution passed the City Council by a vote of 10-6.  Those joining Lumb were council members Bill Gulliford, Greg Anderson, Bill Bishop, Lori Boyer, Doyle Carter, Stephen Joost, Don Redman, Matt Schellenberg and Clay Yarborough.  Those standing with Councilman Love and voting against it were Reggie Brown, John Crescimbeni, Ray Holt, Warren Jones, and Kimberly Daniels.

While it is disappointing that Love’s resolution did not prevail, we are grateful to Councilman Jim Love for standing up for the St. Johns River and successfully facilitating much-needed dialogue about this important issue.  

Click here for City Council contact information, if you would like to express your support for those who stood with the river and disappointment to those who did not.