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For Immediate release (March 31, 2000)


Local Residents, Anglers and Environmentalist Oppose Reducing Water Quality Protection for Lake Sam Rayburn

 Area residents and angling organizations have united to express their opposition to proposed changes in water quality protection for Sam Rayburn reservoir.  At a press conference in Nacogdoches they provided a summary of their efforts opposing the changes being considered by the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission (TNRCC). A paper mill has been operating under the umbrella of a variance to the effluent permit limits established years ago and have undertaken action intended to produce less restrictive water quality limitations.  The current wastewater permit for the Donohue paper mill allows 20,000,000 gallons per day discharge into Paper Mill Creek that flows directly into the Angelina River.  At present, this permitted discharge volume is 73% of the total of all permitted wastewater discharges into Sam Rayburn reservoir, and all it’s tributaries. The next most significant permitted discharge is for 900,000 gallons per day - less than 4% of the total permitted discharge.  Obviously, the quality of effluent of this volume of discharge has the potential for a more profound affect upon Rayburn water quality than any other source. Representatives of the residents, anglers, environmentalist group summarized the arguments opposing the changes pursued by the paper mill as follows. ·        Two independent unbiased agencies and a Texas Natural resources Conservation Commission (TNRCC) scientist have gone on record as opposing revisions which would allow reduction in dissolved oxygen limits to a 4.0 PPM value. A value that is intrinsic with the Designated Use Standard of Intermediate Aquatic Life being considered by TNRCC at the request of the paper company.  The independent agencies are the U.S. Forest Service and the Texas Parks and Wild Life. 

·        Two unbiased, S.F.A. Masters Candidate theses prove that there are significant biological and water chemistry differences between the Upper Angelina River, Lower Angelina River and Attoyac Bayou. The fundamental argument of similar aquatic life offered by the privately funded studies, that are intended to justify the proposed changes in standards and permit limits, is contradicted by these theses.

 ·        The Impaired Waters List 303d, 2000, prepared by the state agency (TNRCC) responsible for assessing and regulating water quality, lists Impairments for Sam Rayburn.  By law, these impairments require corrective TMDL action.  The Impairments list includes acute concentrations of dissolved aluminum.  The proposal to reduce standards and increase permit limits for aluminum discharges by the paper mill from 119 lbs./day to 952 lbs./day would aggravate the very conditions causing the requirement for TMDL action.  This proposal doesn’t make sense. ·        It doesn’t make sense to reduce standards for an upstream body of water that will soon become a source of the City of Lufkin water supply.  The human health issue, linking Alzheimer’s disease with aluminum concentrations in brain tissue, should be carefully considered before raising the permit limits for aluminum discharges. The biological accumulation of highly toxic dioxins, a common by-product of paper mill processes, has not been determined. ·        The State of Texas Water Quality Inventory 96 document discloses numerous metals and toxic substances including Arsenic and pesticides at levels exceeding screening values in the sediment of Sam Rayburn Reservoir.  Many of these toxic substances do not occur naturally, they are man made, and they were transported there by water flow; the same water we swim, fish and water-ski in. 

·        Industrial waste can be cleaned up at the expense of profit margin and tax abatement moneys and other “perks” that have been granted to Donohue.

 Reductions in standards for a permitted discharge of 20,000,000 gallons per day should not be considered without rigorous proof that there will be no negative affect – the Champion / Donohue funded studies offer no such proof. The state and national political and economical consequences of a decision impacting the recreational use of Sam Rayburn Reservoir should be considered and thoroughly understood in consideration of proposed standards revisions and permit limits having so much potential for severe impact on the entire region In this 21st century, the citizens of the state expect industry to abide by water quality regulation rules and law - not change rules and standards to maintain and enhance profit margins.  The TNRCC should not be influenced by the recent intensive publicity campaign predicting economic disaster should the proposed revision in water standards and permit limits not take place.  A decision to support the proposed changes by the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commissioners, who were appointed by Governor George W. Bush, would provide a clear demonstration that public interests are being sacrificed to maintain and enhance profit margins for industry. If economics must be considered, we urge consideration of what is best for a recreational resource economically important to all; a resource that is valued by the entire country and by a nation wide sport fishing industry.  We urge recognition of the recreational value to the five county region surrounding Sam Rayburn, and the lake property owners and the business owners who are economically dependent upon the recreational value of the reservoir.  Water quality standards should not be reduced at the expense of the downstream communities. The proposed change in Designated Use Standards and permit limits should not be allowed because the privately funded studies intended to justify the proposed revisions present conclusions that cannot be defended.  The lake must not become a settling basin for industrial waste. The decision for or against the proposed changes should be based on Science – for all the publics benefit.

 We confront these issues because we do not want to leave a shameful legacy of polluted lakes and streams for our children and future generations. 


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