Altamaha Riverkeeper News
Rayonier AM Permit Allows Pollution of Altamaha to Continue
The Georgia Environmental Protection Division has issued the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for Rayonier Advanced Materials. EPD, which granted the permit Dec. 29, is requiring some tighter limits on discharge chemicals that reduce oxygen levels in the water and on some organic chemicals.
Advocates for water quality in the Altamaha characterized the EPD action as profoundly disappointing. “(EPD) says it sent staff members down there to check odor and they came back and said ‘it smells fine to me.’ The same thing with turbidity,” said Mark Yeager, an ARK board member. “They come out and say they don’t have numerical standards to determine compliance; therefore, they’re in compliance. Rayonier doesn’t cross the line because there is no line.”
EPD is also requiring a study of the discharge, but to Riverkeeper Jen Hilburn, that is akin to simply kicking the can down the road. “The discharge is 50-plus years old,” she said. “Rayonier AM does not need a study to understand the problem. Neither does EPD. The permit expired almost a decade ago, and now we get a study?”
Neil McCubbin is a Canada-based expert on paper mills who has been hired by mills around the world to advise them. He donated his services to ARK and analyzed Rayonier AM’s pollution control measures. “Rayonier could do much more to reduce water pollution, using well established technology, at costs that would be modest relative to dividends paid to shareholders,” McCubbin said. “In my experience, the mill would not be permitted to operate in Europe or any of the major pulp producing countries in the rest of the world like Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, China or Japan. Local residents and government regulators in these countries would not put up with the color, fish contamination or other issues.”