It has come to our attention that David Tsang the former Chief Executive Officer of Evergreen Pulp Mill may be working with Bob Simpson at Freshwater Tissue Co. 

Evergreen Corporation and its executives disappeared suddenly leaving workers unpaid without health insurance and owing the Water Board for fines.  They may or may not have settled some of their debts since then, but it is still the case that the workers were treated very poorly.  Evergreen could not be found when the Water District fined them for violations and the matter was turned over to the Attorney General.  We who live near the mill experienced the many transgressions of Evergreen while it was running the mill including the nasty air and dark clouds.  We witnessed athe many health problems resulting from this pollution.

David Tsang is a former lawyer from British Columbia.  In 2004 he was cited by the Law Society of British Columbia for misconduct and his membership was suspended.  He managed Evergreen for the life of the company.  At Air Board meetings he held out against upgrades to the Samoa Pulp Mill and refused to do a Health Risk Assessment.  It took a lawsuit to make these changes.  As C.E.O. of Evergreen Pulp, Mr. Tsang bares responsibility for the transgressions of Evergreen.

Bob Simpson and Freshwater Tissue Co. claim to be starting fresh as a green company.  Never mind that they can't meet the standards of the Clean Water Act.  Looking back over the history of the Samoa Pulp Mill, while the mill has changed owners, many of the same people have come up again and again.  How can Freshwater Tissue claim to be a new start for the Samoa Pulp Mill if the C.E.O. of Evergreen is involved.

Mr. Simpson has already been to China.  Unless he wanted to taste authentic Chinese food, my guess is that he is looking for investors.  We can't help but wonder if he is chatting with Lee and Mann (the company that owned Evergreen).  The investors are certainly going to have a lot to say about what happens at the mill, because Freshwater Tissue doesn't have the money needed to operate and update the plant.

What is the real story?  New green company or "same old, same old" with a new name.

The Samoa Pulp Mill that is now known as Freshwater Tissue Co. is not as young as it used to be.  It was built in 1965.  As we have mentioned many times,  they have a history of violations.  Several major pieces of equipment have been added as a result of lawsuits.  The plant was made chlorine free after the Surfriders lawsuit in 1989.  In a 2007 lawsuit, they were required to spend $5 million on several pieces of equipment.

But what about the plant as a whole?  In 2005  Tetra Tech, an outside
consulting firm hired by the Air District found that the plant was poorly maintained, smelly and had "active gaseous/steam leads in overhead process piping outside and dry white powder deposits on a wide area of equipment near caustic operations."  From January 2005 through January 12, 2006 "Deviations Evidencing Potential Facility Emission Issues" occured averaging every 5 days (22% of operating days).  In other words, they broke down every 5 days resulting in a release of chemicals into the air.  The money spent in 2007 did not take care of the problems at the mill.  In 2009, they lost their water permit due to violations.  If they spent other money on major upkeep, they kept it secret.

If you look at the cost of a modern pulp mill, little has been spent to keep this pulp mill in shape.  A new pulp mill costs in the billions of dollars. (Kaltime Prima Pulp and Paper Indonesia 1.5 billion, Suzano Pulp Brazil 1.3 billion, Protavia Pulp Australia 1.2 billion) Freshwater plans to spend only 15 million to improve environmental and operating performance, money they haven't raised yet. Meanwhile, they cannot meet environmental standards.  They are looking for a permit that doesn't bring them into compliance with the Clean Water Action until Sept. 2013.

Anyway you add it up, it doesn't equal a clean, green plant.

Comments on the Revised Water Permit are due by 5 PM on June 28, 2010.
Send your thoughts to:

North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board
5550 Skylane Blvd. Suite A
Santa Rosa, CA 95403-1072
Attention: Charles Reed

The new draft permit is available on the Water Board's website under tentative orders. I know everyone is anxious to read all 96 pages. Changes are in red.

Some of the changes include:

Effluent limitation of Absorbable Organic Halides (AOX) removed.

TRE Toxic Reduction Evaluation Action Plan requirement to be initiated within 30 days of date of completion of the accelerated monitoring test-- removed.

Requirement to provide prior notification of a production shift -- removed.

Production reporting requirements of daily pulp production and ISO brightness- removed.

An exception to the standards on Effluent Solids.

The reporting time to report noncompliance that may endanger  health or the environment has been changed from 2 to 24 hours.

Testing the impact on sensitive species is only done every 5 years.

To the good, there are a list of toxic chemicals that must be monitored at the Water Treatment plant that processes water coming from the Mad River.

No changes have been made to the Sept. 2013 date by which they will have to come into compliance with environmental laws.  They have no Water Treatment Plant for the wastewater from this toxic mill.  It just goes in the Ocean.

Please share your thoughts about the revised permit.  Maybe you read it differently.  Let us know.

Guest Editorial by Monty Caid

Below you will find a list of my objections to Freshwater Tissue Co.'s application to reopen the Samoa Pulp Mill.

The Samoa Pulp Mill's new owner is planning to reopen soon and has already gotten approval from the Air Quality Management District and is seeking approval from the Water Quality Board to operate without environmental standards being met and to put off required upgrades and improvements for several years.  They plan to use millions of gallons of water a day to produce thousands of tons of pulp from live trees, mostly Tan Oaks, to make toilet paper pulp and ship it to China.

Problem #1: The past owner did not perform the upgrades that were promised.  Instead, they are asking for  permission to operate without meeting environmental laws, and they have had outstanding water bills for $millions.  When environmental laws are ignored by regulating agencies the pulp mill can pollute the air and water to a greater degree than the law allows.  These laws are in place in an effort to protect humans and other species from too much exposure to toxic chemicals.

Problem #2: To meet environmental standards, some 50 million dollars worth of upgrades are required.  How much TP will they have to sell to do that?  And how long will it take? The owner has already applied for a permit to put off completing the upgrades for three years.

Problem #3: The value of the Tan Oak has never been truly understood by our culture.  There is no tree that has given more to man or wildlife, particularly in food, directly or indirectly.  It is interesting how we view the Tan Oaks taking over clear-cut areas as being a reason for removing them.  Maybe the Tan Oak does the best job of providing food for wildlife until the original biodiversity of the forest is restored.  Damaged areas are very susceptible to invasive species takeover, so Tan Oaks should be welcomed.  Plus, the Tan Oak is not a true oak;  it is a Lithocarpus which only lives in Northern California and Southern Oregon.  All other varieties of Lithocarpus are native to Southeast Asia.

Problem #4: Mr. Simpson says toilet paper is a necessity of life.  Even if it was, we do not have to cut down established trees that have always been held sacred to the people who lived on these lands sustainably for thousands of years.  Using them for TP only shows our ignorance.

Problem #5: Why use native vegetation when we have plenty of invasive species that need to be removed from the land that has already been damaged?  What about recycled paper products?  There are environmentally conscious toilet paper companies that use recycled paper--There are tons of it.  A good mill would use invasive species plant material and recycled paper and follow all environmental law and make paper in nontoxic ways.

A letter on the Geotracker website dated June 10, 2010 from the Water Board to Louisiana Pacific and Freshwater Tissue Co. outlines costs incurred by the Water Board for administering the cleanup of the mill site.  These costs will be billed to L.P. and Freshwater at a cost of $150 an hour.  The estimated cost for 2010 and 2011 is $13,500.   Results of the 2010 tests on the groundwater at the mill site are also on Geotracker including lists of dangerous chemicals many of which are above the reporting level.
Much has been made of the change made by the Samoa Pulp Mill to a chlorine free system.  The inference is that this mill and the corporation that ran it (Louisiana-Pacific) made the change to help the environment.  In fact, the change was made as a result of a lawsuit by the Surfrider Foundation.  In 1989 the Surfrider Foundation brought suit against the mill due to its chronic violations of permissible pollution discharges into the ocean.  The E.P.A. joined in this suit.  In the 1991 consent decree Louisiana-Pacific agreed to install a chlorine free system (U.C. Berkeley study by Cunningham, Kagan and Thornton).

Another untruth is that this change made the mill a clean facility and made Louisiana-Pacific an environmentally conscious corporation.  The truth is very different.  In 1991 leaked internal documents confirmed that L.P. had been overcutting North Coast timberlands.  In 1994 Louisiana-Pacific was again listed as California's No. 1 industrial polluter of air and water according to E.P.A.  In 1995 a Louisiana-Pacific plant in Colorado was indicted on conspiracy and fraud charges for tampering with emissions control equipment and falsifying pollution reports.  In 1998 Louisiana-Pacific pleaded guilty to fraud and environmental charges in federal court and agreed to pay 37 million in fines including 5.5 million for violations to the Clean Air Act- the largest fine in U.S. history. (Northcoast Journal).  Louisiana-Pacific is presently being forced by fear of legal action to conduct a cleanup of the many toxic chemicals in the groundwater at the mill site.

The mill violations under Evergreen Pulp are well known, but will be discussed in future articles.

The fact that the Samoa Mill is a notorious violator of environmental laws does not stop thne past and present owners of the Samoa Pulp Mill from trying to portray this mill as a clean and environmentally friendly facility.  People still spread the rumor that because the mill is chlorine free, it is also a clean mill.  They either don't know the facts or choose to ignore them.

Guest Editorial  by Patrick  Eytchison

On March 12, 2009, after repeated violations, the North Coast Water Quality  Control Board revoked the Waste Discharge Permit for the Samoa Pulp Mill.  Now, on July 15, 2010, the Board plans to issue a new Discharge Permit, although not one thing  has changed except that a new owner, Freshwater Tissue promises to do better - and to make some changes in the mill's water pollution control system over a future three year period.  This is not  how the regulatory process should work.

Suppose there is an individual in my neighborhood who raises pit bulls as a business.  However the fence around his kennel is low, has several holes, and on several occasions dogs have escaped and mauled children in the neighborhood.  The city closes the kennel, revoking its license, but a year later a
new pit bull breeder appears  and applies for a license to operate the same kennel. 
Should he be given a new license?  No, of course, until he has increased the height of the fence and repaired all existing holes.  Of course.  But  suppose the new breeder says, "I'll be happy to fix the fence, but first I'll need you to give me a new kennel license so I can sell some pit bulls in order to raise enough money to do the needed fence repairs.  I figure I can do this is two or three years."

Do you think anyone in the neighborhood would allow this? And yet this  is exactly what is going on between Freshwater Tissue and the Water Quality Board.  Freshwater is saying, "Give  me a Waste Discharge Permit   so I can attract investors and raise money to improve its waste discharge system."

Although no one would think of allowing such a procedure in the case of mauling pit bulls, this has become standard procedure for water and air polluting facilities  like the Samoa Pulp Mill while its owners promise - once again - to repair  the holes in its fence.
Groundwater Tests done in March 2010 are online on the State of California Geotracker website. Chemicals that are above the reporting level include: arsenic, chromium, hexavalent chromium,  manganese, nickel, dichlorethane, trichloroethane, chloroform and vinyl chloride.  Most, if not all, of these chemicals are on the proposition 65 list of chemicals  known to cause cancer and birth defects.

A letter dated April 20, 2010 from SHN Consulting Engineers and Geologists outlines the schedule for the cleanup. A Remedial Action Work Plan (Site Wide) is due to be completed by April 2012.  There is a particular area of interest that will be  looked at sooner.  The Remedial Action Plan for it will be implemented according to the schedule by July- Sept. 2011.  

While pollution can happen quickly, cleanups take a long time,  and as we are learning with the B.P. Oil accident can have questionable results.
The BP oil spill highlights a systemic problem with our regulatory system.  Laws are passed that are soon bypassed with variances and exceptions.  Regulatory agencies are understaffed and underfunded.  Safety systems are compromised in favor of profit.  Now a whole ocean (the Gulf of Mexico) may be ruined forever.  Animals and plants are dead and dying.   What good are those BP oil jobs doing the people of the Gulf Coast now?  

We are fortunate to still have the beautiful Pacific Ocean, BUT...

The same system that allowed the devastation in the Gulf of Mexico is in place here. Freshwater tissue company is also asking for special favors and exceptions to the law.  The Samoa Mill has a long history of violations.  Fines have been reduced. Variances have been granted.  There is a long list of breakdowns.  The revised water permit makes exceptions to the law.  If the permit is passed, Freshwater Tissue still doesn't have to be in compliance until 2013.  

Environmental regulations are supposed to be about protecting people and the ecosystem not about supporting corporations.  We are sympathetic to the needs of the mill workers. But is the political pressure that is pushing this permit all about the workers or about profit for Freshwater Tissue Company.  Certainly workers are not going to get rich working for the mill.  Are those jobs worth polluting our Ocean?