SAM RAYBURN WATER QUALITY ISSUES / FACTS

UPDATE – 6/11/02

TNRCC is currently performing a technical review of the Lufkin Paper Mills’ Waste Discharge Permit #00368 application for amendment of the permit for discharge of waste into the major tributary to Sam Rayburn that was submitted to TNRCC on November 21, 2000.

TNRCC made a public announcement of the application for permit amendment on May 22, 2001.

Questions submitted to TNRCC on May 31, 2001 pertaining to ground water monitoring wells, land fill leachate, and the water chemistry of the ground water in the vicinity of the paper mill land fill have not been answered. TNRCC’s initial written response to the questions indicated "they would like to prepare a response after the permit has been assigned". More recently, TNRCC indicated that the assigned TNRCC technical reviewer had noted the questions, would keep them in mind as his review proceeded, and address them later. Ostensibly, TNRCC will respond to the questions in their "comments to response" document required by law. The permit amendment application submitted by the mill contains the following statement. "In 2001, a new area of the landfill will be constructed and will include a liner and leachate collection. The leachate will be collected in a tank, then transported to the waste water treatment system which discharges to outtfall 001." It would behoove public interests if the agency responsible for monitoring ground water chemistry would determine the consequences of disposal of mill wastes into the unlined landfill utilized by the mill for decades.

TNRCC has not signed the contract purchasing services for assessment of the pollutant loads causing water quality problems on Sam Rayburn identified in the Impaired waters List, 303d even though the Clean Water Act requires remedial action be taken to correct the problems identified in the list. TNRCC says the contract signature was deferred until a TNRCC / legislative squabble over contractor / TNRCC head count limits was cleared up. Interestingly, only the contracts for Rayburn and Orange County assessments were deferred for this reason.

The two TNRCC biologists who performed all the field work pertaining to surface water chemistry assessment, habitat assessment, and aquatic life assessment in the Sam Rayburn water shed over the last few years have resigned.

The current mill permit which allows significant variances to waste discharge limits established years ago expires July 9, 2002. Texas law allows the continued discharge of wastes exceeding the permit limits of the mill while TNRCC is considering the new / amended permit application. In other words, the extension of permit variances to the proper discharge limits will be automatically granted by the state because TNRCC has not completed their review of the application for amendment. Discharge records indicate the 2001 Abitibi paper mill effluent oxygen demand was only 55% of the 1998 effluent oxygen demand. The mill operations have shifted from the production of four paper making machines to one. Sam Rayburn fishing tournament records indicate a dramatic reduction in Rayburn fishery productivity in the years following the 1998 fish kill and a dramatic increase in fishery productivity in 2002 following the beneficial reduced oxygen demand of mill effluent noted in 2001. Two Sam Rayburn spring 2002 tournaments yielded a total of 21 five fish bags that weighed 20lbs or greater. In 1999 the forty-nine tournaments results published in the Lakecaster yielded a total for the year of six bags weighing more than 20 lbs.

Discharge records indicate the mill total surface water discharges ranged from 28,000,000 gallons per day to 31,000,000 gallons per day throughout 1998 and 1999. The permit limit was 20,000,000 gallons per day. The mill permit limit for dissolved aluminum was 119 lbs./day and the self reported discharges ranged from 547 to 927 lbs./day throughout 1998 and 1999. Obviously permit limits upon waste discharges are senseless when operating under the current state system of granting variances to approved permit limits and automatic extensions that allow virtually unlimited discharges and only require that the permit recipient "Report" discharges.

Page 8 of the EPA Administrative Order Docket No. CWEA-6-01-1208 required the mill to complete preliminary engineering for design of new waste water treatment facilities to control water temperature and oxygen demand of effluent by December 2001. The order also required / requires completion of all regulatory reviews by April 1, 2001, beginning of detailed engineering and equipment procurement by June 2001, and beginning of construction of the facilities by 9/1/2002.

EPA response to inquiries about the status of the ordered activities outlined immediately above indicates that the 2001 mile stone dates written into the administrative dates were in error. The dates have been corrected to 2002 and all parties have been notified of the correct dates. The EPA response also indicated that the TNRCC air permit amendment approval is "crucial" to compliance with the administrative order and that the approval cycle would be expedited. Cooling tower operations necessary for proper waste water treatment produce air pollutants may be limited or linked to air pollution limit values that will be defined in the air permit under consideration.