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Newport, Oregon Chapter Releases Report Card for Pulp Mill Permit

The Newport Chapter of Surfrider Foundation recently released its “report card” for the Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) reconsideration of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) wastewater permit of the Georgia-Pacific Pulp Mill in Toledo. The state reissued the permit with two new special conditions which will no longer allow inappropriate waste streams like <?xml version=‘1.0’ encoding=‘utf-8’?> Marion County leachate to be processed at the facility and require an ocean monitoring study.

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Surfrider gives the agency high marks for determining that landfill leachate from Marion County and other external waste streams are inappropriate for discharge off Nye Beach in Newport . Surfrider also commends DEQ for requiring an environmental survey of the ocean discharge, but bemoans the lack of specifics for the design of the study, and third party objectivity. However, Surfrider flunks the agency for flaws in its scientific assessment and modeling, and determining compliance with discharge criteria for turbidity and bacteria.

The science required on the ocean side of the discharge zone to determine the long-term impacts of the effluent plume on nearshore marine life and public health has been neglected”, said Newport Chapter’s Joe Haxel. “DEQ’s requirement for an environmental survey is a good opportunity to begin these ocean environment observations. This study needs to be well-designed and executed to provide sufficient evidence for the 2010 permit renewal process.”

Surfrider Foundation was one of four groups that successfully petitioned the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in 2006 to reconsider the terms of the permit, based on non-compliance with state and federal laws that protect water quality. In March of 2008, Surfrider’s Environmental Issues Team developed a report of science-based recommendations to address the permit’s deficiencies, and help bring the agency closer to compliance with the Clean Water Act. The purpose of the report was to be constructive, and provide DEQ with a roadmap for addressing the issues raised in the petition.

Some of the report’s recommendations focus on the need for enhanced monitoring of marine species and the nearshore environment in the vicinity of the mill’s ocean outfall. Other recommendations provide guidance and data resources for improving the assessments used to identify potential ecological and public health impacts.

“This is primarily about holding Oregon accountable for implementing laws that protect water quality. It’s about a better permit to protect our marine ecosystems and ensure public health for ocean users in Newport ,” says Charlie Plybon Oregon Field Coordinator for Surfrider Foundation. DEQ has not convinced local Surfrider members that they are upholding water quality laws for this permit. “We’re disappointed in DEQ’s poor scientific determinations, but encouraged by the local process to address concerns collaboratively with Georgia Pacific. We have done a lot of research and allocated resources to continue working on ocean monitoring. We’re currently engaged with Georgia Pacific and hopeful we can be a resource for a collaborative and community approach to the ocean monitoring study DEQ has required in the reissue. The approach, evaluation and communication of the ocean monitoring study will be critical in resolving questions and concerns of local ocean users.”