The Florida Department of Environmental Protection takes its mission to protect, conserve and manage the state’s natural resources and enforce its environmental laws very seriously. We are tasked with the important responsibility of ensuring that our regulated facilities are operating in a manner that is protective of the environment. Along with Florida's rules and statutes, permits issued by the department establish criteria and conditions that help protect and preserve Florida’s air and water quality, while supporting a vibrant economy.
DEP is authorized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue permits to regulate discharges to surface waters under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). NPDES permits include requirements that are tailored to the specific operations of the facility, require compliance with surface water quality standards, and establish stringent monitoring requirements to ensure these standards are met. DEP is responsible for the regulation of 2,008 NPDES wastewater facilities throughout Florida, one of which is International Paper (IP) here in Pensacola.
The NPDES wastewater permit governing IP's wastewater was issued in 2010 and remains in effect, there has been no lapse in regulatory oversite. An application for permit renewal was received by the department and was timely and sufficient in accordance with Florida Rule Chapter 62-62 .335 (3); therefore, the 2010 permit remains in effect until the department takes final agency action on the application.
IP's 2010 permit required significant changes to the previous permit, including the relocation of International Paper’s discharge from upper Elevenmile Creek to a new 1,381-acre effluent distribution system since created on an existing wetland area owned by IP. A consent order was issued along with the permit establishing a schedule for achieving compliance with all permit conditions.
How are NPDES wastewater permit applications processed by the department?
When the department receives a permit application, the application is thoroughly reviewed to determine if it provides all the information required to process. After an application is deemed complete, the department carefully evaluates all the technical aspects of the proposed project to determine if the project complies with state and federal requirements. If the project appears to be able to comply with the rules, a draft permit is prepared. The draft is then publicly noticed and put forward for input from other agencies and the public. At least 30 days is provided to receive public comment. As a result of comments received, final action taken by the department, to issue or deny the permit, may be different than the action proposed in the draft.
What are the next steps regarding IP's application for renewal?
We are currently working to prepare a draft renewal permit. To do this, we are looking carefully at each permit requirement to determine what changes are needed to ensure the protection of our waterways if the permit is to be renewed. As part of this evaluation, we are reviewing all available data regarding the facility’s discharge, the functionality of the wetland effluent distribution system, as well as surface water quality data. Once a draft permit is developed, it will be publicly noticed and put forward for input from the public and other agencies. The process ensures that the public has opportunity to review and comment on the draft permit. Public input is an important part of DEP's permitting process and input is encouraged from all of our stakeholders. To take public comment and answer questions regarding the draft permit, a public meeting will be held and will be noticed a minimum of 30 days in advance.
Action taken by the department, to issue or deny the permit, may be different than the action proposed in the draft based on information received during this process.
As we process this permit renewal application, we will update this page with the latest information and documents in order to keep residents informed. If you have questions, please contact Brandy Smith in DEP's Northwest District at 850-595-0695 or Brandy.Smith@FloridaDEP.gov.
July 18, 2019 - 11:31am
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The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship – protecting our air, water and land. The vision of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is to create strong community partnerships, safeguard Florida’s natural resources and enhance its ecosystems.