It's time to upgrade the status and condition of the Fenholloway River, which has been Florida's only "industrial" waterway for decades, a state environmental official says. "This is a serious issue that we're going to have to address," Carol Browner, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Regulation (DER), told the Tallahassee Democrat in a story published Sunday.
Browner wants the Fenholloway, which flows about 35 miles from its starting point in Taylor County to the Gulf of Mexico, changed from Class 5, which carries the industrial label, to Class 3, which means it can be fished and swum in.
A sprawling mill on the Fenholloway in Perry, about 50 miles southeast of Tallahassee, extracts cellulose from pine trees for such products as disposable diapers, coffee filters and rayon.
The Procter & Gamble plant also dumps 50-million gallons of waste water into the Fenholloway each day.
"I think one of the things we could do immediately is to enter into negotiations with Procter & Gamble and set a time frame to reclassify that river," Browner told the newspaper.
Although Procter & Gamble has spent millions of dollars to cut pollution, a federal report shows sea grasses are dead at the river's mouth and as far as two miles out in the Gulf of Mexico.
Will Davis, a scientist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has found mutant female fish in the river that are developing male characteristics. He blames the mill's effluent.
Drinking-water wells in Perry are going bad, and although the contamination isn't linked to P & G, the polluted river is the prime suspect.
The state has warned people not to eat Fenholloway fish because they contain dioxin, which may cause cancer in humans.
P & G spokesman Dan Simmons said the company is willing to hear what the state has to say. But in the past, P
G has opposed changing the river's state ranking. Company officials have offered a long list of reasons to show they can't do it with existing technology.
"If they (P & G) want to be a good corporate citizen, they may be willing to come forward and sit down with us and talk about what we can start doing to go to a Class 3 designation," Browner said.
Simmons said P
G always looks for new equipment to cut pollution.
"(But) you can't start with something that's not a Class 3, add effluent to it, and have it be a Class 3 or better, he said.