The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Barry Sulkin [PEER] (615) 313-7066; Kirsten Stade [PEER] (202) 265-7337; Cheryl Slavant [Ouachita Riverkeeper] (318) 381-0996

Koch Paper Mill Profits from Weak Pollution Regulation

Demand for EPA Intervention to Stem Enormous Effluent Flow from Arkansas Plant


An Arkansas paper mill owned by Koch Industries pumps out massive amounts of pollution in violation of the Clean Water Act, according an enforcement complaint filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Ouachita Riverkeeper. The outflow from the plant fouls not only local water bodies but crosses the Louisiana border, staining a designated Natural and Scenic River.

The Georgia-Pacific mill in Crossett, Arkansas, is owned by Koch Industries, which is run by the Koch brothers--conservative activists who bankroll the Tea Party and other advocacy against government regulation. Many of their main targets have been environmental rules. Their plant has created horrendous conditions, including -

  • Discharging 45 million gallons per day of paper-mill waste, including ammonia and chloride, and metals such as zinc, copper, and mercury. This toxic stew combines with the town of Crossett's sewage in Coffee Creek, the stream below the plant;
  • Coffee Creek is covered with foam, scum and slime [see attached photos]. Besides the obvious impact on fish, a review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found effluent from the plant likely comes into contact with muskrat, beaver, turtles, ducks, turkey, deer as well as "other large mammals"; and
  • From Coffee Creek, the effluent travels through Mossy Lake and to the Ouachita River just above the Louisiana state line. The discharge causes obnoxious color and nauseous odor conditions in the River (where it is a designated Natural and Scenic River).

Koch Industries has persuaded the State of Arkansas to issue the Georgia-Pacific mill a permit that in essence removes water quality standards for the creek, on the self-fulfilling grounds that it can never be restored to a biologically viable stream. Since the Coffee Creek pollution discharge permit contains few limits, it is almost impossible to violate--but Koch Industries has violated it nonetheless, the groups contend in their complaint.

"The Clean Water Act does not allow our streams to be turned into industrial sewers," stated PEER Field Director Barry Sulkin, the former Chief of Enforcement and Compliance for the Tennessee Division of Water Pollution Control. "No wonder the Kochs dislike strict federal regulation. They have covered Coffee Creek with so much foam it should be called Cappuccino Creek."

The groups' complaint was filed with the EPA Regional Administrator in Dallas invoking inherent federal authority to enforce the Clean Water Act. It demands that EPA immediately assume jurisdiction over the case to protect public health and the environment and to maintain the credibility of the national water quality program. If the EPA Region does not act, they may appeal to EPA's Assistant Administrator for Enforcement in Washington. At issue is whether Arkansas has fallen below federal minimum standards.

"This mess has long been interfering with what are supposed to be protected uses of public waterways and it is time for it to stop," said Cheryl Slavant of Ouachita Riverkeeper. "We keep hearing about EPA overreaching - well, this is a clear example of under-reaching. We need federal oversight when states surrender public waters to accommodate pollution."


See the pollution from the plant

Read the enforcement complaint

Look at the EPA analysis of degraded conditions

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.