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Procter and Gamble’s Buckeye Paper Mill pollutes the Fenholloway River in Taylor Co., Florida, USA

For over 50 years, the Buckeye Paper MIll, now the Foley Cellulose Mill, has been polluting the "industrial" Fenholloway River with impunity for attacks against activists.


The Fenholloway River, located in Florida’s northern Gulf Coast, was formerly an ecologically rich area before the river was reclassified as an “industrial river” in 1947 to allow companies to dump without restrictions directly into the water. Procter and Gamble (P&G) subsequently jumped on the opportunity and built its Buckeye Mill in 1954 to produce thousands of tons daily of chlorine-bleached cellulose for disposable sanitary products such as tampons, pads, and diapers. After 40 years of over 50 million gallons of toxic dumping a day, the river then turned black, smelly, and oily and contained over 2,000 times the acceptable levels of dioxin contamination. Disease rates in the surrounding Taylor County thus skyrocketed, with high rates of leukemia, cancer, blood and liver disorders, and more [3]. Most marine life also died off, creating a 15 square mile “dead zone.”  Any fish still surviving have received significant scientific attention for mutations such as pollutant-induced sex changes. Well water and other sources of groundwater also became contaminated [4]. Locals were advised not to drink the water, and P&G began distributing bottled water in the community instead of cleaning up their mess [8].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Procter and Gamble’s Buckeye Paper Mill pollutes the Fenholloway River in Taylor Co., Florida, USA
Country:United States of America
State or province:Florida
Location of conflict:Perry
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Water treatment and access to sanitation (access to sewage)
Other industries
Specific commodities:Cellulose
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The Fenholloway River, which runs 35 miles from its beginnings in Taylor County until it empties into the Gulf of Mexico, is Florida's only "industrial" waterway. It is perhaps the dirtiest. The Georgia-Pacific Foley Cellulose Mill is based in Perry and produces specialty fibers made from cellulose such as those made for disposable hygiene products, but also including other uses in a wide variety of items [5].

Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:01/01/1947
Company names or state enterprises:Procter and Gamble from United States of America
Georgia Pacific Group from United States of America
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Florida Clean Water Network, Help Our Polluted Environment (HOPE)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Industrial workers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (undecided)
Negotiated alternative solution
Violent targeting of activists
Withdrawal of company/investment
Development of alternatives:Environmental groups have offered an alternative solution to the pipeline plan: switching to oxygen instead of bleach to whiten their wood pulp, drastically lowering pollutant levels [4].. Another alternative would be to restore Taylor County’s Fenholloway River by no longer dumping into it effluent from its Foley Cellulose paper mill. Instead, to build a pipeline to funnel more than 40-million gallons of wastewater a day about a mile above where the Fenholloway empties into the Gulf of Mexico.This is rejected by Wakulla activists who say no Fenholloway pipeline.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The cellulose mill is now run by Georgia-Pacific, which has been implementing a new pipeline project that will worsen the pollution despite disputed claims that the pollution has improved. Those who attacked and harassed activists continue to receive impunity.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[2] Crown. Soap Opera: The Inside Story of Procter & Gamble (Swasy 2012)
[click to view]

[3] Big Earth Publishing. The war against the greens (Helvarg 2004)
[click to view]

[9] PhD Dissertation, 2005,FSU by Gloria G. Horning, Environmental Justice -a case study in Florida. The Environmental Justice Movement is an aggregate of community-based, grassroots efforts

against proposed and existing hazardous waste facilities and the organizations that assist them. The movement has created a context in which low-income communities and people of color are able to act with power. Using interviews, participant observation, and various archival records, a case study of the organization HOPE located in Perry, Florida, was developed. The case compared key factors in community mobilization and campaign endurance. Special attention was paid to the process of issue construction, the formation of collective identity, and the role of framing inmobilizing specific constituencies.
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[1] Gainesville Sun. Activist beaten, stabbed by 3 men (Swirko 1992)
[click to view]

[4] Orange Blossom Express. Paper mills’ waste causes a stink (Salinero 2005)
[click to view]

[5] Tallahassee Democrat. Foley cellulose mill plans river restoration project (Waters 2015)
[click to view]

[6] WFSU. Taylor County’s Fenholloway River: A balancing act between economy and ecology (Hatter & Payne 2016)
[click to view]

[7] Los Angeles Times. Florida environment’s hidden menace: Toxic chemical pollution (Lester 1996)
[click to view]

[8] Born to Love. Proctor and Gamble’s toxic tea (Elston 2012)
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Dalena Tran, ICTA-UAB, [email protected]
Last update06/04/2021
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