Georgia Pacific (GP) in Toledo has just released the results of a recent survey of their paper mill’s effluent that is discharged three-quarters of a mile offshore from Nye Beach. GP officials say it shows they are not damaging the ocean environment and that DEQ has extended their discharge permit administratively.
The study was commissioned by GP and conducted by international engineering firm CH2M Hill. The million dollar “plus” analysis was conducted over a series of months not only at the effluent pipe mixing zone, but as far north as Beverly Beach and as far south as south South Beach. A total of 15 samples sites were tested for the effluent’s effects on water quality and the ocean food chain. In every test GP says test results showed GP’s effects on the sea environment is well below any threshold of concern as established by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
In ocean floor sediment samples, GP reports that there are no detectible levels of phenols or cyanide and that metals levels are well below screening criteria at South Beach, South Yaquina, and North Yaquina testing areas. Levels of silver, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, mercury, nickel, lead, selenium, tin and zinc were all at tiny fractions of any level that DEQ would consider “of concern.”
GP also reports that the abundance of what are called Benthic Infauna (bottom of the food chain fish food) appears to be unaffected by the effluent as well as its infauna richness and diversity.
As for water quality measures, GP’s study shows their effluent having little effect on temperature, salinity, water density, dissolved oxygen, or turbidity. However, when tested for how clear the water was near the effluent outfall, the survey showed that there is noticeable clouding of the water from a depth of three feet down to around 15 to 20 feet.
Across all water quality samples taken test results showed very minute traces of silver, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, mercury, nickel, lead, selenium, tin and zinc; all well below any levels “of concern.” However, the presence of cyanide in water samples showed levels reaching a third of the level that would be “of concern” right at the mouth of the effluent pipe. But the cyanide level drops off to what appears to be ambient levels at all other water sample sites from Beverly Beach down to the southerly part of South Beach.
When contacted by News Lincoln County, a top DEQ official said that the survey results were carefully scrutinized by DEQ experts and that based on their findings DEQ has administratively extended GP’s discharge permit. They say they will be revisiting the GP operations in the near future to do a more comprehensive analysis of as part of their discharge permit review that is scheduled every five years.