Saturday, August 24, 2013

Puzzle in Palatka

There I was, surfing around Google Maps and scoping out the area around Palatka and seeing what there was to be seen. And then I saw something.

I zoomed in gradually on this angular structure on the surface, curious about what I was looking at.

And then I started getting bewildered. What the heck am I seeing?


Okay, now this is just getting scary.

At first I thought it was some sort of chemical dumpsite or water treatment plant - there are clearly service roads going all around the perimeters of these immense rectangular pools of something - but what is going on inside there?

I had to do some on-the-ground (well, via Google Maps Street View) snooping to suss out that this is on property belonging to the Georgia-Pacific paper company. That being the case, I assumed these are giant tanks of some sort of paper-mill waste, but what in the world is making it arrange itself in these patterns that look like I'm observing some exotic strain of mutant molecules in a microscope?

I found the answer - sort of - in an article from the Florida Independent titled "Researcher Fears the Unknown in Georgia-Pacific Effluent": it is, in fact, some bad, bad dioxin-filled crap.

Because Georgia-Pacific could not meet color and conductivity standards in Rice Creek, where it has discharged its waste for the last 65 years, the company was ordered to construct a pipeline from its Palatka mill into the St. Johns River, the idea being that the pollution would be somewhat diluted.

Sonnenberg has spent a lot of time examining the effluent coming out of Georgia-Pacific’s Palatka mill, and was contracted by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to review the company’s efforts to improve its effluent so that it could continue to be discharged into Rice Creek.

“Rice Creek comes up over and over as one of the most contaminated sites in the river,” she says, adding that “PCBs, mercury, polyaromatic hydrocarbons and chloryphenols” are all chemicals of concern.

A new diatom species was discovered in the St. Johns just last year by an FSU biologist studying a 7-year-old sample collected in Putnam County. According to an article about the discovery, published at Science Daily, the tiny plants known as diatoms “reflect declining water quality” in the area in which they are present.

Well now. Isn't that just ducky. Dioxin, PCBs, mercury, all flowing into this river for 65 years and the best anyone can do is to try to take measures to make it only somewhat diluted? And a new, never-before-seen species of diatom suddenly shows up here? Son of a bitch.

Drink up, gentlemen, last call.


  1. i noticed this as well while i was on a trip to florida, quite a strange occurrence.

  2. that is the Oxidation ponds at GP. I used to live right there at them. Had to buy new appliances every 6months to a year due to all the sulpher gasses eating the copper wires..dont miss that place at all!

  3. What you see is aerators. I work here. We have invested over 200 million dollars since 2000 in environmental upgrades. We also have the largest water treatment ponds in North America.