Wastewater Treatment for Buckeye Paper Company

Perry, Florida

In the early 2000s, organizations such as the Clean Water Network in Tallahassee, Florida and the National Resources Defense Council in Washington D.C. began a decade-long litigation process regarding a permit issued by Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) for the discharge of 50 million gallons per day of treated wastewater from the Buckeye Paper Company in Perry, Florida to the Fenholloway River and estuary.

The initial draft permit called for discharge to the estuary via a 15-mile pipeline. However, due to objections from various stakeholders and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (Region 4 and headquarters in Washington D.C.), the state and Buckeye Paper Company were compelled to evaluate the possibility of discharge to the river instead of the estuary and creation of a 2,000 acre constructed wetland as the final treatment process.

McFadden Engineering was asked by the FDEP, Buckeye and the environmental organizations to evaluate the water quality issues associated with the project, including the water quality model developed by Tetra Tech for EPA, permitting strategies by FDEP and wastewater treatment options proposed by EPA headquarters and Buckeye. As a result of evaluating the above, the estimated $60 million waste water treatment plant upgrade was reduced to $18 million, the water quality model was revised to better simulate in-stream conditions and permitting strategies were again focused on a direct discharge to the estuary due to higher salinity values in the Buckeye discharge.

As a result, Buckeye was able to remain in business (saving some 2,000 jobs in a rural county), water quality concerns were addressed and FDEP was able to issue a draft permit addressing site specific criteria required for discharge. Litigation and permitting issues concluded as all of the relevant issues were addressed.