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VIDEO: Arkansas riverkeeper alleges Koch Industries wastewater violations

Image has not been found. URL: http://images.americanindependent.com/2010/08/MahurinEnviro_Thumb5.jpgUpdated, Wednesday, 10:30 a.m. EST

As Georgia-Pacific continues to fight environmental groups and the state Department of Environmental Protection over the waste that it dumps into Florida’s rivers and streams, the paper company may be headed for similarly-heated battles elsewhere.

Georgia-Pacific makes Dixie cups, Brawny paper towels and Angel Soft toilet paper, among other paper products, and is a division of Koch Industries. The Ouachita Riverkeeper, which strives to maintain the quality of the Ouachita River as it snakes through Arkansas and Louisiana, has alleged that Georgia-Pacific is destroying the Ouachita ecosystem by flooding the river with waste in violation of regulations that have already come under attack in the past for being too lax.

In a YouTube video, Ouachita Riverkeeper Cheryl Slavant (the term “Riverkeeper” refers to both the organization and Slavant as the person who oversees and represents the organization’s efforts) details the violations that she says are ongoing at Georgia-Pacific’s Crossett, Ark., plant.

Slavant tells The American Independent that although Georgia-Pacific’s daily allowance of wastewater is officially listed as 45 million gallons, she got the figure of 85 million from attending an Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) hearing. ADEQ spokesperson Cecillea Pond-Mayo says that the permit is, in fact, for the lower number of 45 million. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a national environmental oversight organization, also uses the 45 million gallon figure. Slavant, however, still isn’t convinced that Georgia-Pacific isn’t dumping far more waste into the Ouachita River than it’s supposed to. “I’ve been monitoring that site for several years and there’s more water coming from that discharge point now than there ever was,” she says. “It’s a gushing waterfall instead of a trickle.”

The “black liquor” that Slavant refers to in the video is a resinous byproduct of paper production. She contends that Georgia-Pacific has been dumping it into the water rather than treating it for reuse as fuel, as is now standard in the paper industry. However, Georgia-Pacific spokesman James Malone says that black liquor never leaves any of their facilities because reusing it is a “key step that paper production facilities have in their manufacturing process.” He says, “Nothing leaves the facility, like she says here. We create more than 50 percent of the energy in a facility using black liquor.”

Georgia-Pacific has been meeting its permit, according to ADEQ reviews of the site, reports Pond-Mayo. Pond-Mayo also tells The American Independent that the site most prominently featured in the Riverkeeper video is part of Georgia-Pacific’s wastewater treatment plant and says that the water that actually enters the Ouachita River via tributary Coffee Creek is far cleaner.

Slavant remains skeptical. She and PEER have now filed a complaint with the EPA to have the agency review the site for potential violations. In 2007, the EPA found that the “no aquatic life use” designation of Coffee Creek that allows Georgia-Pacific to dump more wastewater into Coffee Creek than it could dump directly into the Ouachita River was questionable. The EPA determined that if companies like Georgia-Pacific were barred from dumping waste and chemicals into the water, Coffee Creek could support aquatic life. The EPA recommended that the creek be reclassified by the ADEQ, but it could not enforce its recommendation with regulation.

Pond-Mayo says that the ADEQ is currently developing a usability analysis to evaluate the EPA claims and potentially appeal the recommendation.

Update: After publication of this article, James Malone, a Georgia-Pacific spokesman, called The American Independent to assert that black liquor does not leave the plant and that its reuse is, in fact, a crucial part of the paper production process. His comments have been added to the post. The American Independent plans to follow up on this story.

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