February 15, 2011: Recently, we 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, we have 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, we 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 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.  We believe that the GDE analysis exposes the shortcomings of the GP study and validates many of our concerns.