Save the Pigeon River! Comment on permit today!

Comments due by February 25!

One of the most long and controversial struggles in CleanWater Act history has reached a key decision point, and we need your help. Anew draft permit for Blue Ridge Paper Products, dba Evergreen Packaging, in Canton, NC has beenissued and it will not require any meaningful improvements in the plants wastewater discharge to the PigeonRiver. This meansthat NC Division of Water Quality thinks the river is clean enough even thoughthe plants discharge will continue to harm the Pigeon River.

The state is currently accepting comments on the permit -let your voice be heard! Dont allow the Division of Water Quality to give upon the Pigeon River!

The two specific areas in which the plants dischargecontinues to harm the river are with the discharge of color and with the temperature of the discharge. The draft permit drops thecolor variance that has been in previous permits. Thisvariance was the last remaining acknowledgment that the mill was not incompliance with NCs narrative standard for color, and dropping itmeans the state is refusing to ask for additional reductions in the dischargeof color and the toxics that are in that color.

 

The draft permit also continues to allow the plant todischarge water that is 57 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the water in theriver. This is 20 degrees hotter than other plants are allowed todischarge, and this high temperature discharge led to at least one incident in2007 that killed almost 8500 fish downstream of the plant.

See below for more background information and talkingpoints.

What you can do!

Write letters to the editor of your local paper and submit comments by February 25 to the state. Let them know why thisissue is important for you, your family, and our community and ask that thepermit be strengthened so that it will reduce pollution to the river.

Written comments should be mailed to:

Ms. Dina Sprinkle

NC Division of Water Quality/NPDES Unit

1617 MailService Center

Raleigh, NC27699-1617

Or emailed to BOTH: dina.sprinkle@ncdenr.govand sergei.chernikov@ncdenr.gov

Be sure to reference PERMIT NUMBER NC0000272 for Blue Ridge PaperProducts!

Talking Points:

Color is not just an aesthetic concern it indicates the presence of a mixture of toxic chemicals in the plants discharge to the river. The Pigeon River remains classified as impaired in several sections below the mill in North Carolina and Tennessee.

The mill still has not met standards that EPA called for in 1987. Cost-effective process changes are available to the mill to reduce pollution to the river, but DWQ is not requiring implementation of these methods! Contrary to what you may have hard, these changes are affordable and are no threat to the mills operation or jobs.

All but two plants in North Carolina must keep their discharged water no more than 37 degrees hotter that the water in the river. The permit should require a reduction in temperature and should require the plant to meet a daily temperature limit instead of just a monthly average limit, which allows for huge spikes in temperature throughout the month.

These are issues of national importance: after 101 years of pollution and decades of struggle to clean up the Pigeon, its time to bring the Clean Water Act alive again to restore the river!

 

Background:

 

The Blue Ridge Papermill in Canton,NC has been in operating and discharging itswastewater to the PigeonRiver for over a century.Although the Pigeon is cleaner now than it was 100 years ago, there are stillparts of the plants wastewater discharge permit that are in directviolation of the Clean Water Act.

The State of North Carolina and the mill have failed to hold up agreements made between themselves and Tennessee, EPA, andcitizens groups that called for all parties to continue to work toward cleaningup the river at the quickest possible pace. This draft permit calls for nosignificant improvements to be made to pollution releases into the river. Infact, the State has failed to require significant improvements to water qualityin the Pigeon in almost 10 years.

Studies have shown that the mill can implementtechnologies that would decrease pollution discharges to the river by 50% and increase profits to the millin a short period of time. We know that the mill can do better. A cleanand clear river will provide a variety of economic opportunities for Haywood Countyand Cocke County, TN. A clean river makes thesecounties enticing as ecotourism destinations and is a valuable resource to theresidents of both counties for a variety of reasons. Income of raftingcompanies in CockeCounty was $3.5 millionin 2001 and has only grown since that time.

Improving water quality on the Pigeon is both an economicand environmental issue that affects our communities and our families. Over110,000 lbs of toxic, cancer-causing chemicals are discharged into the Pigeon Riverevery year by Blue Ridge Paper. Tens of thousands of tourists raft in the water annually, and raft guidesare exposed to the toxic chemicals every day. Families swim in and picnicbeside it. This water seeps into the aquifers that supply our well water.It is unacceptable that NorthCarolina is not requiring the plant to spend thetime, money, and effort to remedy a fixable problem.

To learn more, contact:

Clean Water for NorthCarolina (CWFNC)

Katie Hicks (828) 251-1291 katie@cwfnc.org

Hope Taylor (919) 401-9600 hope@cwfnc.org