Mill, power company stand to gain

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LEWISTON – While International Paper is promising a fight over new pollution standards proposed for the Androscoggin River, others are set to gain from the state’s plans.

One of those could be the Wausau Paper mill, on the Livermore Falls-Jay town line.

Wausau depends on IP to treat its wastewater. In December, IP sent a letter to Wausau announcing its intent to end the relationship in 2010. The five-year notice was required by the contract between the two mills.

On Thursday, the Department of Environmental Protection released proposed changes to the discharge permits for the IP mill in Jay and the NewPage mill in Rumford. The proposals would significantly shorten the amount of time the two mills have to come into compliance with pollution standards for the river.

As part of its proposed changes to IP’s discharge permit, the DEP built in an incentive for the relationship between IP and Wausau to continue. IP treats about 3 million gallons of wastewater a day from the Wausau mill, which has no treatment facilities of its own. If IP stops treating the wastewater, it will also have to meet tougher pollution standards.

In its December letter to Wausau, IP cited the uncertainty of the pending re-examination of its discharge permit as the reason for canceling its deal with Wausau, which is also known as the Otis mill.

“When this (licensing issue) turned political, the uncertainty dictated that we look at all the long-term scenarios with operations of our mill and the potential negative impact of any license changes. While we do not want or enjoy sending that type of letter, we saw no other way, based on a five-year table,” IP spokesman Bill Cohen told the Sun Journal in January.

“There’s no reason for IP to send that letter,” DEP Commissioner David Littell said Thursday. “There’s no real reason to cut them off, either.”

If IP stops treating the wastewater from Wausau, IP should be able to reduce its pollution discharge into the river even further than required by either the current permit or the new limits proposed Thursday, documents supporting DEP’s changes say. IP will be treating less water and should be able to release fewer pollutants, DEP says.

Cohen also said in January that as IP received more information, it might reconsider its move to cancel the contract with Wausau.

Messages left with Cohen and Wausau Paper, both locally and at the company’s headquarters in Wisconsin, were not returned early Friday afternoon.

Another potential winner is FPL Energy, which owns the hydroelectric dam at Gulf Island Pond and is a subsidiary of Florida Power and Light.

DEP issued new discharge permits to IP, NewPage, FPL Energy and the Livermore Falls wastewater treatment facility in September. Multiple appeals were filed on all four permits.

One item of contention for FPL Energy was a mandated $100,000 payment to Livermore Falls for capital improvements to its water treatment plant. Because the town’s treatment facility is meeting its requirements, Littell said Thursday that DEP would not fight FPL Energy’s appeal of the payment to the town.

The payment is one of three or four issues that FPL Energy is appealing, said F. Allen Wiley, the company’s director of business and regulatory affairs.

“We certainly think this is the appropriate response to the appeals we’ve filed,” Wiley said.

The other issues, which include the responsibility for installing a new bubbler to pump oxygen into Gulf Island Pond, remain under appeal, Wiley said.

Sun Journal staff writer Donna M. Perry contributed to this story.

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