Researcher concerned over unknown contaminants found in waste stream at GP's Palatka, Florida, tissue and kraft paper mill, says more tests should be conducted as company plans to build US$350M pipeline

LOS ANGELES , February 1, 2012 () – A Jacksonville University researcher has voiced concern that pollutants coming from unknown sources found in the waste stream at Georgia-Pacific LLC’s Palatka, Florida, tissue and kraft paper mill are an issue in addition to the current dioxin levels being tested, The Florida Independent reported on Jan. 13.

Lucinda Sonnenberg was contracted by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to review GP’s waste into Rice Creek. The company has discharged effluent into the water stream for 65 years and was recently ordered to build a US$350 million pipeline into the St. Johns River to dilute the location’s waste.

Sonnenberg believes more testing needs to be done on Rice Creek sediment and has concern for chemicals such as PCBs, mercury, polyaromatic bydrocarbons and chloryphenols.

The sources of most contaminants remain unknown and while the sediment would not travel through the pipeline, there might still remain “constituents in the wastewater” that would be dispelled into the St. Johns, she said.

Dioxin levels are the current focus of GP’s discharge due to traces found in fish in the past, though a spokeswoman for the DEP said that the levels have improved with new technologies at the mill.

Current levels found do not pose a potential health hazard, though Sonnenberg admits that the testing methods used are ”hard to get right, especially at very high levels.”

While environmentalists would prefer GP to correct the pollutant source at its Palatka mill, the company claims it has done all it can with the effluent levels and that the pipeline is the only answer.

GP has spent about US$250 million in upgrades at its Palatka mill, The Florida Independent reported.

According to the company’s website, the location operates two kraft paper machines and three tissue paper machines. It produces about 527,000 tons of paper products per year sold under the GP brand names of Angel Soft, Quilted Northern, Sparkle and Brawny.

The primary source of this article is The Florida Independent on Jan. 13, 2012.

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