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Buckeye clears the air

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Submitted by Howard Drew

Chad Hanson’s recent letter to the editor mischaracterized emerging plans to improve the Fenholloway River in Taylor County and nearby Gulf waters.

Since the letter mentioned by name the company for which I work – Buckeye – I would like to provide readers with additional information about our operations and commitment to improve both river and Gulf water quality.

Buckeye acquired the cellulose manufacturing plant near Perry in 1993 and began an extensive modernization program resulting in dramatic environmental improvements.  The color of the plant’s treated effluent has been reduced by 55 percent. Biological oxygen demand and total suspended solids have been reduced by 49 and 58 percent respectively.

The release of phosphorous and nitrogen nutrients have been reduced by 60 and 39 percent respectively. The inadvertent generation of dioxin has been eliminated.  Buckeye’s use of groundwater has been reduced by 20 percent. 

 In 2003, biologists with the U.S. Geological Survey conducted an assessment and found bass, bluegills, warmouth, red bellies, and several species of catfish as well as bowfin and gar in the Fenholloway.  They also collected young tarpon just below the plant’s effluent outfall. All of the fish were healthy. The Florida Department of Health subsequently lifted the fish advisory that had been instituted in 1990.

 A couple of assertions in the letter were wrong and worth mentioning. The writer stated that Buckeye operates under an expired permit and that a dead zone exists at the mouth of the Fenholloway. Neither claim is factual.

 Still, it is fair to say that more environmental improvements are needed to address Fenholloway and near-Gulf water quality issues.  Buckeye is committed to making the improvements. 

Buckeye is working with state and federal regulatory agencies and scientists, including those recommended to us by the Clean Water Network and the Natural Resources Defense Council, to develop and implement a plan of work that restores the Fenholloway to fishable and swimmable standards, maintains the fishable and swimmable designation that already exists for Gulf waters adjacent to the Fenholloway, and completes restoration of nearby seagrass beds.

 The comprehensive plan involves completing the restoration of 6,700 acres of wetlands near the headwaters of the Fenholloway, making additional upgrades of equipment within the manufacturing process, installing a more efficient effluent treatment system, and relocating the plant’s discharge point so that “salty” effluent will not impact the freshwater portion of the Fenholloway. 

 The letter expressed a concern that relocating the plant’s effluent discharge point would harm Gulf water quality.  In fact, the comprehensive plan of work under consideration improves both Gulf and river water quality. The plan will improve the quality and reduce the volume of the plant’s treated effluent.

 Buckeye will not agree to any plan that creates a new environmental problem for its neighbors or the company.

 Anyone that would like to learn more about current conditions and planned improvements to Fenholloway and Gulf waters are encouraged to visit Buckeye. A visit can be scheduled by calling 850-584-1275.  We value two-way communications with our neighbors.

Sincerely,

Howard Drew

Buckeye Site Manager and Vice President, Wood Cellulose Manufacturing