About a quarter century ago, when Hercules Specialty Resins was still spewing its sulfurous emissions across the marshes of Glynn to be dissipated by mingling with the off-shore breezes, local wags dubbed the odiferous environment “the smell of money.” They may have been more right than they thought. For, within a decade, all profits had apparently gone up the chimney, even as every rain storm deposited more toxins to poison the marsh. That profitable enterprise depends to a large extent on avoiding waste is a lesson the new owners of Pinova seem to appreciate. On the other side of town, the tradition of spewing tons of sulphur up the chimney continues.
Even as Hercules Specialty Resins was falling on hard times, the behemoth known as Georgia Pacific found it necessary to sell off some of its forest products dependent enterprises. Koch Industries, having previously acquired the polyester fiber business, Invista, from the DuPont corporation, ponied up $610 million in 2004 for two pulp mills – one on the Leaf River in New Augusta, Mississippi and the slightly larger Brunswick Pulp and Paper on the shores of our Turtle River. Then, the following year, in November of 2005, the Koch brothers made a tender of $13.2 billion for all of Georgia Pacific’s assets and finally shelled out $21 billion, when the deal was finalized in December. That is, if news reports are to be believed. What is both credible and incredible is that just six months later those assets became collateral for an $11 billion loan from Citicorp North America, Inc. It’s credible, because that’s the story Glynn County deed records tell. What’s incredible is that Wall Street would bail out the Koch brothers to that extent.
Actually, that gigantic debt was incurred by Brunswick Cellulose, Inc. That’s the entity with which Georgia’s environmental watchdogs are dealing when they issue air pollution and waste water permits, but who’s actually responsible is an open question. There are so many names to choose from:
- Brunswick Cellulose, LLC
- GP Cellulose Operations and Holdings LLC
- GP Cellulose, LLC
- Georgia-Pacific Brunswick Operations
- Brunswick Pulp and Paper Company
- Georgia-Pacific Southeastern Chlorate Plant
- Koch Cellulose, LLC
- Koch Cellulose, Gmbh
The State of Georgia also seems content to be dealing with Brunswick Cellulose, Inc., when it comes to the environmental covenant, recorded in Deed Book 3368/0398, precluding any future residential use of some 348.84 acres because the soil is too contaminated with toxic chemicals. And Brunswick Cellulose, Inc. is the entity identified in numerous mechanics’ liens which local contractors have had to file just to get paid.
- Performance Contracting Inc.
- Georgia Block & Brick, Inc.
- Georgia Ready Mix, Inc.
- Construction Materials, Inc.
- DMI Contractors, Inc.
- Barbera Utility Contracting, Inc.
- DYWIDAG SYSTEMS INT.
- Concept Systems
- Standard Concrete Products
While not paying one’s bills until a lien is filed seems rather shoddy behavior on the part of a multi-billion dollar enterprise, it becomes downright insulting when the only official response to a toxic release that made people sick is to claim that the community should appreciate the $700 million that’s supposedly been invested in new plant and equipment in recent years. It’s doubly insulting when there’s no evidence that the plant’s effluents and emissions are doing anything to clean up the environment. Indeed, what the Environmental Protection Division signed off on in 2004 seems unchanged in the draft permit that’s being reviewed in 2015:
Power Boiler #4 is currently permitted to burn bark, tire-derived fuel (TDF), wastewater treatment sludge, waste oil, natural gas, and No. 6 fuel oil. The unit’s heat input capacity rate will not change as a result of this modification and remains a maximum of 800 MMBtu/hr. The boiler was installed at the mill in 1961. Brunswick has proposed to install and operate a continuous emissions monitoring system (CEMS) for oxides of nitrogen (NOX) for this unit in order to demonstrate compliance with a proposed Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) avoidance limit. The unit already utilizes a continuous opacity monitoring system (COMS).
The modification of the Brunswick Mill due to the modifications of Power Boiler #4 will result in an emissions increase in sulfur dioxide (SO2), particulate matter (PM/PM10), NOX, carbon monoxide (CO), and ozone (VOC), and lead (Pb). A PSD analysis was performed for the boiler for all pollutants to determine if any increase was above the “significance” level. The PM/PM10 emissions increase was above the PSD significant level threshold.
While “opacity” refers to the density of the smoke, what’s being monitored is just a small percentage of the toxins identified in the Total Release Inventory (TRI) published by the EPA:
- barium compounds
- chlorine and chlorine dioxide
- formic acid
- hydrochloric acid
- hydrogen sulfide
- lead compounds
- manganese compounds
- polycyclic aromatic compounds
- sulfuric acid
- zinc compounds
Granted, since the plant is permitted to emit 2002 tons of sulfur dioxide in a 12 month period, the accidental release of a couple of pounds, as happened during a power failure in 2014, would hardly register with the plant’s operators. How were they supposed to know an atmospheric inversion was going to douse the neighborhood? Besides, most of their emissions are calculated, not actually measured. That is, emissions are deduced from the kind and amount of fuels consumed. Indeed, some of the calculations approved by the regulators seem to be based on equipment and processes that aren’t even in place. So, the plant gets credit for an electrostatic precipitator associated with Lime Kiln #6, which has not yet been installed. And the permit anticipates the burning of pet coke (tar sands residue), which isn’t actually being combusted anywhere in the U.S.
I suppose we could conclude that the Kochs are forward looking. Or, we might suspect that their press releases are based on smoke and mirrors. The reality is that in the year 2013 Brunswick Cellulose has spewed 912,704 pounds of pollutants into the air, deposited 10,608 pounds on the land and poured 180,528 pounds into the waters of the state. Moreover, while toxins such as mercury settle out in the sludge of the waste water ponds, burning that sludge in the power boiler then disperses the mercury (no more than 7.1 pounds in a 24 hour period) into the atmosphere.
Finally, the evidence provided in the permit applications suggests that most of the “improvements” at Brunswick Cellulose or GP Cellulose or Koch Cellulose involve the removal of various facilities and processes. Bleach plants 1-3 were supposedly removed and replaced by Bleach plant 4. The methanol storage facility is reported removed. Ditto for the non-condensible gas (NCG) system and incinerator. Four digesters haven’t been installed and neither has the #6 Lime Kiln and the attendant pet coke grinder. So, what have $700 million bought? Power boilers #5 and #6 have no monitors and no anti-pollution devices (scrubbers and electrostatic precipitators), so they don’t have to be monitored. It seems that the same standard as in real estate applies. If it’s not destroyed over 50%, it doesn’t have to be modernized.
It’s no wonder the air we breathe is increasingly contaminated. Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) is the order of the day. But, it’s the host of insignificancies (the invisible fine particulate matter FPM) that is killing the planet.
You’d better believe it!