Environment: Sharing Solutions- Northwest- March 2004
International Paper Co., which bought the plant three years ago and vowed to solve the problem, hopes to move ahead this spring with a solution: A ground-breaking, $85-million project in partnership with the Escambia County Utilities Authority.
The plan calls for the utilities authority to build a wastewater treatment plant serving the fast-growing central area of Escambia and for the paper mill to stop dumping into the creek and to upgrade its own wastewater plant. Both plants will use a jointly funded pipeline and a 1,500-acre wetlands area designed to eliminate direct discharge into any body of water.
"This will be the first bleached kraft mill we're aware of anywhere in the world that will not have a direct discharge to receiving waters,'' says Tom Jorling, IP vice president of environmental affairs and formerly assistant administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency during the Carter administration.
The plan isn't coming together without controversy, however. Department of Environmental Protection Secretary David Struhs, 43, whose agency regulates the plant, announced in January he was resigning to take a job with International Paper as vice president of environmental affairs.
Under Struhs, the DEP pushed the utilities authority to apply for a $56-million DEP loan to build its treatment plant and the shared pipeline. Struhs says he recused himself from decisions on the project beginning in October after the company contacted him about a job.
Both Struhs and IP dismissed questions about whether the job was connected with his regulation of the company.
The project calls for restoration of wetlands drained years ago for farm and forestry usage. Also, reuse of utilities authority wastewater would put less demand on groundwater.
Some environmentalists still question the quality of effluent that would flow into the wetlands tract and the project's effectiveness in halting the delivery of pollutants to the bay.
Wade Nutter, whose Georgia environmental consulting firm was team leader for wetlands design, responds that effluent flowing into the wetlands will already meet standards. "The wetlands will serve to distribute the effluent across a broader portion of the bay and benefit the wetlands restoration."
A public challenge could delay the project, but the company will persist, says plant manager Nicki Slusser.
IN THE NEWS
Bay County -- The Department of Environmental Protection is proposing an unprecedented general wetlands permitting plan, which would apply to a 38,500-acre tract owned by St. Joe Co. (NYSE-JOE) and replace individual project permits. The proposed ecosystem management area runs between West Bay in Bay County and Choctawhatchee Bay in Walton County and includes the 4,000-acre site for a new airport.
RETIRING IN FLORIDA
Florida has the second-largest population of military retirees in the country. More than 16% of the 179,513 military retirees in the state live in Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties.Where Military Retirees LiveStateNo. of
TotalCalifornia??195,45610.4%Florida??179,513?9.5%Texas??173,604?9.2%Virginia??122,777?6.5%Georgia????77,157?4.1%North Carolina????71,472?3.8%Washington????67,314?3.6%South Carolina????49,621?2.6%Alabama????48,970?2.6%Arizona????48,799?2.6%Total/U.S.1,879,985100%Source: Haas Center for Business Research and Economic Development, Sept. 30, 2000Chipley -- CEO Patrick Schlenker's proposal to turn around the ailing Northwest Florida Community Hospital was voted by the Washington County Commission the best of three final-round bids. Schlenker, who has been managing the rural hospital as vice president of Sacred Heart Health System, signed a 40-year lease agreement with the county. Each will invest $3.2 million for improvements.
Destin -- Sandestin's Raven Golf Club and Burnt Pine Golf Club received accolades in December golfing magazine rankings. Florida Golf News magazine named Raven Golf Club best in northwest Florida and the No. 14 course in Florida, while Golfweek included Burnt Pine Golf Club among its 2003 "Top 150 Resort Courses in America."
Gadsden County -- Backed by a $6-million grant from National Institutes of Health, Florida A&M University will work with Florida State University Medical School and Harvard University to study disparities in health problems in black and low-income populations in Gadsden County and a Boston urban neighborhood. Communicating information on good health practices will be part of the project, which could develop models for other communities nationwide.
Gulf Breeze -- Allan Davis Seashells, for 52 years an alternative source for unlucky shell-hunters at nearby Pensacola Beach, has sold its last souvenir treasure. The popular shop closed when the founder's two sons, Bob and Allan D. Davis, decided to retire. Allan W. Davis, who died in 2000 at age 98, started selling shells out of his home in Myrtle Grove in 1939. He opened the shop alongside the beachgoers' route in 1951.
Milton -- Construction of a downtown, 8,000-sq.-ft. Veteran's Memorial Plaza is under way, with a target Veteran's Day dedication.
Pace -- Air Products and Chemicals has stopped dumping wastewater into Escambia Bay. Its $1-million alternative project is now diverting effluent to percolation ponds. Since the massive fish kills of the mid-1990s, other major sources of bay pollution also have reduced or eliminated nutrient discharges.
Panama City Beach -- Three Destin-area businessmen who paid an estimated $34 million for a pair of golf courses and the Marriott Hotel now plan to spend $15 million revitalizing their purchases, formerly part of Bay Point Leisure Properties. The new owners are Destin developers Buddy Runnels and John McNeil and Sandestin hotelier Frank Flautt.
Pensacola -- Baptist Health Care plans to build a $60-million suburban hospital on the northern edge of town, transferring 96 beds from its 480-bed downtown hospital. The move, which also would add 400 jobs, is a response to population shift, hospital CEO Al Stubblefield says.
Two locations are being eyed as a possible site for a museum to celebrate the city's maritime history, a project being promoted by Ret. Vice Adm. Jack Fetterman, president and CEO of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation. A site at the Port of Pensacola could be combined with a cruise terminal; city-owned property west of downtown also might be an option.
Pensacola Bay -- Women of Escambia and Santa Rosa counties have established Impact100 Pensacola Bay Area, which will raise funds for charity. The group hopes to raise $100,000 annually.
Santa Rosa Beach -- The Walton County Commission has approved plans for Somerset Beach, a new town on 158 acres along County Road 30A between Seaside and Rosemary Beach. The project owner, Birmingham, Ala.-based EBSCO Gulf Coast Development Inc., plans 599 residential units, a 60-room inn and a town center with more than 177,000 square feet of retail, office and civic space. Construction on the three-phase beachside development will begin this spring, with the final phase slated for 2019.
South Walton County -- One-year-old Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast has grown so rapidly that it's already expanding: A $2.2-million emergency room addition will be completed by fall. The hospital, which has 100 physicians on staff, has recorded 1,700 surgeries and 15,000 emergency room visits since opening Jan. 27, 2003.
Tallahassee -- Capital City Bank Group has bought Quincy State Bank, a $119-million asset bank formerly owned by Synovus of Columbus, Ga., and with offices in Quincy and Havana. Founded in 1895, Tallahassee-based Capital City has $1.8 billion in assets.