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The Pigeon River in east Tennessee has historically been degraded by discharges from a paper mill in Canton, North Carolina. A settlement agreement concluded in 1998 between Champion Paper Company, the State of North Carolina, the State of Tennessee, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Cocke County, Tenn., City of Newport, Tenn. the American Canoe Association and the Tennessee Environmental Council resulted in strict new standards, and dramatic improvements to the quality and color of the Pigeon River. The Canton mill is now employee-owned and operated by Blue Ridge Paper Products, Inc.
Much work remains to be done. The State of Tennessee is committed to providing clean water for all Tennessee citizens, and will not be satisfied until the Pigeon River runs clean and clear. The independent review process by technical experts established by the 1998 agreement will continue to drive progress towards that goal.
Tennessee appreciates North Carolina's commitment to clean water in the Pigeon River, and recognizes the great improvement in water quality due to the process established by the 1998 settlement agreement. Though there has been great progress, we have not yet achieved our clean water goals. Tennessee urges that the following improvements be made to the draft permit to ensure continued progress:
Tennessees overriding concern has been and will always be protecting human health. For that reason, the new permit must maintain the requirements for monitoring for the full-range of dioxins and difurans.
The draft permit does not require Blue Ridge Paper Products to implement all three process improvements identified by the Technical Review Workgroup (TRW) as having the "highest certainty" of success. These include bleach filtrate recycle reliability, leak and spill collection and control and process optimization. The permit language should be revised to require implementation of all three of these improvements.
Tennessee asks that the required color reduction achieved by the above improvements be changed to a range of 6,000 to 8,000 pounds per day of true color, rather than a flat 6,000 pounds per day. We believe this better reflects the recommendations of the TRW.
The 3,000 to 8,000 pounds per day range of true color reductions effective 2006 must be in addition to the color reductions required by the "highest certainty" process improvements described above. Blue Ridge Paper Products may achieve this second round of reductions through the technologies prescribed by the TRW or through other available technology that would result in the same level of improvement.
To ensure objectivity and accountability to all parties involved, the TRW must maintain its involvement in the implementation and review of new technologies. Any reconsideration of technology improvements must be guided and approved by the TRW.
The TRW, involving pulp and paper industry experts as well as regulators from EPA, North Carolina and Tennessee, has delivered a wealth of technical experience to the mill as well as an independent point of view to the process.