Georgia-Pacific Sneaks A Nasty Toxic Pipeline Into the St. John’s River

Koch Brothers’ Consumer Company Deploys Plutocratic Clout To Work Around Pollution Laws*
Georgia Pacific Pollution PipelineShell game: transferring the pollutants  that killed Rice Creek into the St. John’s River. Because they can.

Somewhere near Jacksonville, FL, a stealth pipeline channels wastewater pollution from Koch Industries’ Georgia-Pacific Palatka paper mill directly into the already seriously compromised St. John’s River.** It’s dumping something like 25,000,000 gallons of pulp mill wastewater into the river every day. Aren’t there laws about this kind of thing?

There sort of are, but there are lots of ways around them, especially in Florida. Just ask the high falutin’ mega-poluttin’ Koch Brothers, who bought the GP paper mill in 2005.

The paper mill had been dumping it’s effluent into Rice Creek since 1947, but even in Florida they have to pretend to regulate pollution when things get too bad. Way back in 2003, under Gov Jeb Bush, it was decided that it was going to be easier to divert the Palatka waste from the local dioxin impoundment ponds and Rice Creek than it would be to comply with clean water regulations.  The pipeline was approved, over the objections of Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist.

Then everybody screwed around for about a decade while nothing happened, at least that the public was aware of. The EPA came along and tested the creek in 2008 and found high levels of dioxins. The FDEP got right on that in 2009 and I’ll tell you they went right out and WROTE A LETTER! They demanded that GP conduct additional dioxin testing, but GP never did. No one knows why not.

The thing to bear in mind is that the whole testing an permitting process is ruse designed to fool a distracted public into believing that government environmental agencies are on their side.

As time went by the most expedient solution was still to build a pipeline to relocate the paper mill pollution to another waterway. That way, GP wasn’t dumping into Rice Creek. Get it?

Permits got issued without the process ever really seeing the light of day. Whether it was technically illegal or more or less beside the point. By the time the public discovered what was going to happen, the game was over. There were protests and everything, but by 2012 the pipeline had been approved and built. The bottom line is that today, with the help of Governor Rick “I’m No Scientist” Scott (R) and the captive FDEP*** tons of toxic waste is piped every day into the St. John’s River.

The St. John’s River already had big problems before the paper mill pipeline added to the problem. And it’s not as if no one knows about the problems. In the summer, the nasty green toxic algae from nitrogen run off fouls the shoreline. There is also good old fashioned Florida industrial pollution from Jacksonville, run off from thousands of leaking septic tanks and, perhaps the most insidious, an ongoing uptick in salinity. The salinity increase comes from the inexorable sea level rise that is now threatening the East Coast to a degree that even Republicans secretly notice, and also from dredging the river in order to accommodate cruise ships.

The solution is not to fix these problems, but rather, to buy pollution credits. And that’s what the city fathers are doing ladies and gentlemen: spending $16 million from other agencies to offset the fact that they ain’t doing squat. It all sounds good unless you think about it for over 10 seconds, but if you explained it to a fifth grader, they would say “Oh, your paying taxpayer money so you can pretend your cleaning up the river.”

What a strange species we are.

*Georgia-Pacific is a manufacturer of toilet paper and other consumer paper products and industrial products and chemicals. Brands you might know are: Angel Soft, Quilted Northern, and Soft n’ Gentle, Blue Ribbon, Brawny, Dixie, Sparkle, Ultra, and Vanity Fair.
** The St. John’s River is known as “Florida’s American Heritage River.” This works in a lot of different ways, depending on how you perceive America’s heritage. In Florida, they continue to teach and proclaim that Ponce de Leon founded St. Augustine, even though the unfortunate Poncenator never got near the place.
***In Florida, the Governor appoints the Secretary of the Fake Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). This leads to conflicts of interest for obvious reasons. For example, the guy Jeb Bush appointed to head the FDEP head took a high-paying job with International Paper when he left.

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