Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Crossett, Arkansas – Fact Check and Activist Falsehoods

An internet video produced by a partisan fringe filmmaker contains a series of distortions and intentional falsehoods about a mill facility in Crossett, Arkansas, that is operated by Georgia-Pacific, a company acquired by Koch Industries in December 2005.  We urge anyone who encounters this video to regard it with high skepticism and we would caution against taking seriously any of the deceitful claims made in the piece.  There is no doubt that the medical conditions of the people in the clip deserve sympathy and that is certainly our feeling too.  But any suggestion that those conditions are linked to GP’s Crossett operations is simply not based on the facts.

Here are some specifics:

  • The claims by the primary source in the clip, David Bouie, were rejected as part of a class-action and then, in June, 2011, were voluntarily withdrawn by Mr. Bouie himself.  There is simply no basis, factual or legal, for his assertions.  What’s more, in 1997, long before Koch owned Georgia-Pacific, Mr. Bouie and his wife waived all claims as part of a legal agreement with the company.
  • The second source in the clip, Cheryl Slavant, has previously filed frivolous complaints about the company with environmental regulators – all of which have been rejected by both state and federal agencies.
  • The third source is Melissa Jarrell, a professor at Texas A&M, who repeats a false claim about the wrongful prosecution of Koch and four employees that took place over ten years ago.  The facts on that matter can be found on KochFacts and in other reports such as this, which demonstrate the falsehoods and misrepresentations that have been perpetuated by partisans and fringe activists in the last ten years about this matter.
  • The final source is William Auberle who is presented as an expert to assert that our emissions are “a ticking time bomb.”  The reality, however, is that our emissions are approved and monitored based on both state and federal regulatory permits.
  • Accurate information about GP’s Crossett mill, its operations, its commitment to environmental health and safety (including Georgia-Pacific’s investment last year of $250 million to add jobs and further enhance its Crossett mill) can be found here.  That investment will significantly upgrade an existing paper machine with advanced tissue-making technology and associated converting equipment.  That means modernizing the mill, improving long-term competitiveness and helping to preserve existing jobs and also create significant construction-related jobs during the work.

SPECIFIC ISSUES RAISED IN THE VIDEO:

Cheryl Slavant asserts, “I noticed in my river sheets of black, the color is different, the smell is different, the whole river is different.”

When Ms. Slavant makes these comments, the video shows shots of portions of our permitted wastewater treatment system in early stages of treatment, inferring that this is footage of the Ouachita River. None of the footage shown in the video is of the river. Ms. Slavant has made similar claims before in media interviews, Internet posts, and in complaints made to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and the EPA Region 6 administrator. Her claims made to the EPA were investigated by the ADEQ and were found to be completely without merit as outlined in a letter of response from EPA. That letter from EPA can be seen in full here.

David Bouie asserts, “It’s rough. Whatever is in it is killing these trees.”

Mr. Bouie makes these claims while he is surrounded by obviously lush vegetation, and in much of the video that shows parts of our permitted treatment system, there is obviously significant growth of grasses, shrubs and trees. The fallen trees shown in the video are ones that have toppled over due to natural causes such as age or erosion and not from our effluent treatment process.

Ms. Slavant asserts, “They have cut this huge channel and it’s like an open sewer line.”

The channel referred to is part of our permitted wastewater treatment system.  The permit was issued by the ADEQ, following review and comment by EPA Region 6, Louisiana DEQ and the public. Georgia-Pacific is in full compliance with the terms of the permit.

Ms. Slavant and Mr. Bouie reference the closeness of the effluent streams to neighborhoods, the odor from the streams and the “cloud that gets up in the air over the trees where our property is.”

Throughout the video, Slavant and Bouie refer to our effluent stream as being close to the West Penn Road area. However, the closest that the stream is to that neighborhood is at least a half mile through forest. While there may be some odor and steam from the effluent in the vicinity of the wastewater treatment system, that odor and steam dissipates quickly. At times in the winter, when the wastewater is warmer than the air temperature, steam may be created, just like any river or stream would in those types of conditions.

Ms. Slavant asserts, “Our mission is to find out whose it is, who’s behind it and how to stop it.”

We have met with Ms. Slavant in the past to answer her questions and address her concerns about the color and conditions of the Ouachita River downstream from our mill. We have shared factual information, discussed the permitting process and she has talked with other experts and regulatory agencies who have shared facts with her. In all these cases, she was told that we operate in compliance with our permit which includes effluent limitations and other requirements that are protective of the river, but she continues to share misinformation about our treatment process, including taking video footage and saying that it is footage of the river.

Ms. Slavant refers to the area depicted as private property and Mr. Bouie then talks about “stuff being dumped into the wide open.”

Ms. Slavant is correct in saying that what she has shown is private property, owned by Georgia-Pacific, and used as part of our permitted wastewater treatment system. Mr. Bouie’s reference to dumping into the wide open is also inaccurate. The various stages of the process that they show are used to treat our effluent before it is discharged into the Ouachita River, meeting all limits required by our regulatory permits.

William M. Auberle refers to our permitted emissions as “a lot of nasty chemicals” and as “a ticking time bomb.”

Mr. Auberle, identified as an expert, should have the knowledge that our emissions are permitted and monitored based on state and federal regulatory permits. However, he chooses to characterize them to generate fear. He then narrates a part of the video that he says represents our effluent flow out of the plant through a series of “ditches,” indicating multiple streams that fan out across a map. This misrepresents our wastewater treatment system. He also uses the term “percolate” which is an inaccurate description of our wastewater treatment process and is not representative of how our treatment process is managed. The video also uses the effect of darkening the map in an effort to generate more fear.

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