May 6, 2011: Recently, Jacksonville City Council member Jim Love introduced a resolution to Council calling for a delay to the Georgia-Pacific wastewater discharge permit until all ongoing pollution problems at the Palatka mill have been sufficiently resolved.  Read the resolution.

While the resolution could not prevent Secretary Herschel Vinyard and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection from issuing the permit, it does make a powerful statement about the community's concern about the proposed pipeline and the health of our St. Johns River.

The resolution goes to the Transportation, Energy & Utilities Commitee on Monday, September 19th at 2:00 p.m.

Then, the resolution will go before the Recreation, Community Development, Public Health & Safety Committee on Tuesday, September 20th at 2:00 p.m.

Click on the committees above to see a list of the members. If you are a Jacksonville resident and can attend the meetings, please try to do so.  Also, please contact Council members in support of the resolution. Click here for a list of Jacksonville City Council members and their e-mails and phone numbers.


The Georgia-Pacific (GP) paper mill in Palatka is unable to meet water quality standards in Rice Creek, where it currently discharges 20-28 million gallons of wastewater every day.  As a result, GP wants to build a nearly 4-mile long pipeline to divert its wastewater into the heart of the St. Johns River.   Please, join us in opposing the pipeline. 

Here is a summary of the latest activities:

St. Johns Riverkeeper sent a letter to Governor Rick Scott on February 16, 2011 along with 1,230 petitions from concerned citizens who oppose the proposed pipeline.  Unfortunately, we still have not received a response from Governor Scott acknowledging receipt of the letter.

On June 9th, we organized a rally at the Northeast district offices of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to oppose the pipeline and show support for our river.

Watch video highlights of the rally.

On June 10th, Neil Armingeon, the St. Johns Riverkeeper, and Jimmy Orth, Executive Director, met with FDEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard and Senator John Thrasher.  Secretary Vinyard agreed to continue the dialogue about potential alternatives to the pipeline. 

However, St. Johns Riverkeeper believes that critical questions about the sources of GP's pollution problems must first be answered before a specific solution, including the pipeline, can be identified.  As a result, we responded to Secretary Vinyard on June 17th with a series of technical questions.   Click here to read the the letter from St. Johns Riverkeeper.  We have yet to receive a response with answers to our questions.

On July14th, we held a public forum that included presentations about the GP pipeline issue from: Neil Armingeon, the St. Johns Riverkeeper; Dr. Bob Hayes, a chemical engineer with over 50 years of experience in the pulp and paper industry; and Dr. Lucinda Sonnenberg, a highly-regarded chemist from Jacksonville University.

Earlier this year, St. Johns Riverkeeper hired Dr. Hayes to do a peer review of the Brown and Caldwell study, an alternatives analysis commissioned by GP that has been used to justify the pipeline.  The FDEP hired Dr. Lucinda Sonnenberg to provide technical expertise that they needed to help with the evaluation of the Brown and Caldwell study and the wastewater discharge permit.

Dr. Hayes and Dr. Sonnenberg both independently came to the same conclusion. They both concur that more information is needed to thoroughly understand and pinpoint the sources of GP's pollution problems and to sufficiently identify and evaluate all of the alternatives to the pipeline that may exist.

Read a summary of Dr. Hayes' peer review. 
Read Dr. Sonnenberg's final report to FDEP.

Visit our YouTube channel to watch videos of the July 14th GP Pipeline Forum presentations.

On September 12th, we sent a second letter to Governor Rick Scott expressing our concerns about the pipeline, along with 3,920 petitions signed by citizens opposing the pipeline.

Please contact the Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Herschel Vinyard, directly to express your opposition.  We still believe a decision on the permit may be coming soon, so your help is urgently needed.

Secretary Herschel Vinyard

FL Department of Environmental Protection
3900 Commonwealth Blvd.
Mail Station 10
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3000

Here is a quick and simple sample letter for your consideration.  Put into your own words and possibly include some of the facts and talking points that follow.

"I am opposed to the Georgia-Pacific (GP) pipeline. Our St. Johns River is sick and the pipeline would be a major setback to efforts to restore its health. I urge the DEP to require a more thorough analysis of the sources of pollution at the GP mill and a more thorough evaluation of all viable alternatives to the pipeline. It is clear that significant questions and issues remain unresolved and viable alternatives have been overlooked.  As a result, a decision regarding the pipeline permit is premature and ill-advised."

Facts and Talking Points:

  • The St. Johns River is already sick. Simply relocating wastewater from one place to another is not a responsible solution to a pollution problem and will be a setback to efforts to restore the river’s health.
  • St. Johns Riverkeeper commissioned a peer review of GP’s Brown and Caldwell (BC) alternatives report that justifies the pipeline.   The peer review concludes that the BC report contains technical errors and that all viable alternatives to the pipeline were not thoroughly evaluated.  Read the full report by clicking here.
  • A well-qualified engineer from our peer review, Dr. Bob Hays, and a highly-regarded chemist, Dr. Lucinda Sonnenberg, have independently reviewed the GP Brown and Caldwell alternatives report and both concluded that a complete and thorough analysis has not been conducted and important issues and questions have not been fully resolved.  Read the "Evaluation of Georgia-Pacific Palatka Effluent Improvement and Effluent Impact Studies" by Dr. Sonnenberg by clicking here.  
  • The source of chronic toxicity in GP’s effluent is still not very well understood, and thus has not been adequately addressed by GP or the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
  • Insufficient analysis has been conducted to identify the sources of GP’s effluent quality problems, such as chronic toxicity. The source of a pollution problem is obviously critical in determining the solution.
  • There are still valid concerns about excessive levels of dioxin in GP’s effluent that have yet to be adequately addressed or resolved. No strategies have been proposed to eliminate the discharge of dioxins. Background: Water quality samples analyzed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2008 revealed that GP was discharging dioxin (a highly toxic carcinogen related to Agent Orange) in its wastewater at levels two to five times higher than the EPA water quality criterion. While the state DEP said it would work with GP to explore ways to further reduce dioxin levels in the effluent, this issue remains unresolved.
  • The presence of legacy compounds (mercury, PCB’s, biocides, etc.), in addition to dioxin, in the mill effluent have not been ruled out.
  • The possible unintended consequences to the river from the relocation of the pipeline are not clearly understood.
  • The bottom line is that the pipeline does nothing to resolve ongoing water quality problems and concerns at the Georgia-Pacific paper mill. A much more comprehensive analysis is necessary that identifies all the sources of GP’s water quality problems, thoroughly evaluates all viable alternatives and solutions, and provides answers to all unresolved questions and issues.

For more information, visit this previous blog post