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Dioxin limits for paper mills are working to clean up water


March 4, 2003
By Pulp & Paper Canada

Dioxin discharges from pulp-and-paper mills in Washington are declining, according to a new report from the state D…

Dioxin discharges from pulp-and-paper mills in Washington are declining, according to a new report from the state Department of Ecology (DE).
Since 12 years ago, DE has set limits for dioxin in the effluent of four pulp-and-paper mills in Western Washington: the Weyerhaeuser mills in Everett and Cosmopolis, the Simpson Kraft mill in Tacoma and the Rayonier mill in Port Angeles.
According to monitoring data described in a report entitled Effectiveness Monitoring for Dioxin Total Maximum Daily Loads in Western Washington, dioxin discharges at all four mills have dropped from more than 10 parts per quadrillion to non-detectable levels. The improvements were achieved by changing additives used in the paper-bleaching process and by using chlorine dioxide in place of elemental chlorine.
“The dioxin levels in these mills’ discharges have gone from very low to non-detectable,” said Bill Backous, who manages DE’s environmental-assessment program. “It’s exciting to see that our water cleanup efforts do make a difference.”
Dioxins are highly toxic, do not break down in the environment and build up in the bodies of animals and humans, where they may cause long-term health problems.
Of seven pulp-and-paper mills currently operating in Washington, three discharge into water bodies that do not meet water-quality standards. As part of the effort to clean up the waterways, DE established limits for dioxin discharges into them. The fourth mill highlighted in the report, Rayonier, closed in 1997, but dioxin studies were completed before it closed.
Other mills in Washington are required to monitor their effluent, and the four mills on the Columbia River also have had dioxin limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
According to DE’s report, all pulp-and-paper mills in Washington have shown measurable success in reducing dioxin.
The EPA reports that more than 40% of tested waters in the nation do not meet water-quality standards. Under federal law, states are required to develop strategies to reduce the discharge of toxic pollutants from identifiable sources.
Dioxin is of such concern in Washington that Gov. Gary Locke has proposed spending $309,000 in the next budget cycle to create a chemical-action plan for eliminating discharges of dioxin into the environment.

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