By David A. Farrell, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
Two executives from International Paper Co.’s Bogalusa, La., paper mill told supervisors on Monday that the company is five months into planning to refurbish the plant’s waste water treatment facility, which will, when finished, be the most efficient and state-of-the-art waste water treatment facilities inside the company. The new treatment plant at the Bogalusa mill will cost IP an estimated $30 million dollars, the officials said.
Said Dr. Mike Steltenkamp, mill environmental, health and safety manager: “To say it will be one of the best in company is saying a lot because IP has plants all over the world — in Asia, Europe, and North and South America.”
Steltenkamp said when IP bought the plant from Temple-Inland in February, the company was handed a plan, but IP officials wanted to revise it and submit a better plan to state officials.
He said IP officials got permission to revamp the plan, and now, six months later, have submitted plans to both the Louisiana and Mississippi Departments of Environmental Quality, and as soon as they get approval from both agencies, will begin construction on what will be one of a state-of-the-art, and one of the best, waste water treatment facilities in the world.
The plans were supposed to go before the Mississippi DEQ this week.
IP bought out Temple-Inland in February, following a disastrous chemical spill by Temple-Inland from the plant into the Pearl River that killed hundreds of thousands of fish from Bogalusa down to the Gulf of Mexico. Some of fish are consider endangered that are fighting for survival as a species. The fish kill was the worst in the history of the river when it occurred in August 2011.
The state of Mississippi is currently in a program of restocking the river and has recently finished two major species restocking efforts and has more restocking programs planned.
The Bogalusa mill, which produces paper products, including news print, has a major impact on the economy of southeastern Louisiana and the southern portion of Mississippi that includes Pearl River County. The mill employs 400 workers, many of whom are from Pearl River and other counties in Mississippi. It’s located in Louisiana just across the Pearl River about 25 miles west of Poplarville. The mill dwarfs the downtown business district of Bogalusa.
The Pearl River, which absorbed a heavy blow from the spill, forms the state line between Pearl River County and Washington Parish, La., on the western side of the Mississippi boot hill.
The mill not only employs 400 but also purchases timber from area landowners and owns tracts of timber itself, thus contributing significantly to the state’s timber industry.
Appearing before the board of supervisors here were J. Todd Crutcher, mill manager, and Steltenkamp.
“I just want to say that these gentlemen are good neighbors, and that’s why they are here today. I am not defending what happened in the past, but these gentlemen are here to assure us that they are taking steps to see that this never happens again,” said J. Patrick Lee supervisors board ooard president.
Crutcher told supervisors that he “brought Dr. Steltenkamp on board” because he is the best environmental scientist he could find, that Steltenkamp had just finished a similar project in Pensacola, Fla., and there was a need for discovering what needed to be done here and then to take steps to implement a plan.
Steltenkamp told supervisors that he brought together the best scientists and engineers inside IP and also called on some outside experts to look at the plans they inherited. “We, with state officials permission, put together what we believe is a better plan and submitted it to officials.”
Steltenkamp said the modifications to the system will be “major.” He added, “There is a lot of redundancy in our new plans.”
He said the new system will “compartmentalize” waste, mainly solids, and while one portion of the plant can be shut down, the other part will remain up and running. That was not possible under the old system, he said. He said solids will also be removed at the “front end” of the facility.
“The benefits of this new plant will accumulate quickly, and people will actually see improvements as we get under construction with the facility,” he said. He added company officials plan to meet with Louisiana and Mississippi officials in late August to get approval and begin work.