On August 9th, Temple-Inland Inc, a paper mill in Bogalusa, Louisiana, released a high concentration of waste material into the Pearl River.
The result was that hundreds of thousands of fish died in the river, including the federally protected Gulf Sturgeon.
These primitive fish inhabit the Gulf of Mexico along with various tributaries including Pearl River. Though the sturgeon feed in brackish waters, they use the fresh waters for spawning.
The sturgeon, along with the other species of fish in the river, were killed due to the mill’s release of a chemical they call “black liquor.”
Massive Waste in Producing Pulp
The substance is actually a waste product that is produced during the kraft pulping process when paper mills process pulpwood into paper pulp by removing lignin, hemicelluloses and any other extractives from the wood to free the cellulose fibers.
It is estimated that for every ton of pulp that is manufactured, approximately 7 tons of black liquor is produced. The company has not revealed how much black liquor was released in Pearl River.
Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary called the spill a “horrific event,” stating, “We lost tens of thousands of mussels, hundreds of thousands of fish of at least 26 species, including 24 gulf sturgeons, an endangered species,” Barham said. “That’s like losing 24 bald eagles. It’s extremely serious.”
Potential Penalties in the Millions
Officials have not fined the company as of yet. The company has agreed to pay for extensive testing to make sure the Pearl River is safe and extending those tests to Lake Pontchartrain as a precaution.
Out of the 24 sturgeons killed, 22 were collected and the penalty for killing them, since they are on the Endangered Species List, is $50,000 and/or a year in jail for each one killed.
If government officials use these figures as a starting point, then the penalties would start at $1.1 million and increase from there.
When asked during a hearing of the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality if the area was safe, Committee Chairman Jean-Paul Morrell of New Orleans said, “According to DEQ safeguards, I’d probably wait a little longer.”
(1) InhabitatOriginally published on TopSecretWriters.com