Water is a vital natural resource, one humans couldn't live without. It's also an integral part of the papermaking process.
While a significant amount of water flows through our mill systems, only about 12 percent of it is consumed during the pulp and papermaking process. Most is recycled, treated thoroughly to remove contaminants and usually returned to the body of water it came from. Georgia‐Pacific treats its wastewater discharges in compliance with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards and state standards. In some cases, the water we put back into nature is cleaner than when it came into our facilities.
Across Georgia‐Pacific, we are committed to reducing water use wherever feasible. To conserve and reuse water, we turn to some creative and innovative solutions.
Being “water wise”
Each GP manufacturing facility is responsible for managing its water use, since each has different operating conditions and local and state requirements that affect water availability and use.
At our tissue mill in Palatka, Florida, GP spent more than $70 million to upgrade the mill's black liquor evaporators, which remove water from byproducts of the pulping process, enabling the mill to burn the material for fuel in its boilers and greatly increase the mill's energy efficiency. New evaporators might not sound impressive, but they have reduced energy costs by an estimated $1 million per month and water use by more than 30 percent.
Georgia‐Pacific's mill in Halsey, Oregon, got a surprise in 2008 when the company that supplies its water announced a major price hike. But that move wound up inspiring a series of efforts to reduce water consumption. These efforts included curtailing freshwater and process water leaks, reclaiming cooling water, and substituting process water for fresh water in the paper mill. Also, changes were made at the secondary fiber facility to enable the mill to use filtered process water in place of fresh water where possible. The result: The mill slashed its fresh water use by more than 40 percent, saving about 1.4 million gallons of water every day.
At the Foley Cellulose mill, near Perry, Florida, we have collaborated with the city of Perry to use reclaimed wastewater to help cool our equipment. Foley re-uses an average of 315,000 gallons per day of reclaimed water from the city. That adds up to about 115 million gallons of water annually that the mill doesn't take from other freshwater sources.
Multiple capital investment projects under way at the Foley mill will have additional environmental benefits. They include the construction of a new wastewater treatment system and the installation of new black liquor evaporators, similar to the Palatka project. Georgia‐Pacific is investing more than $140 million in the mill to improve operations and leave a lighter footprint. It's all part of the mill's Fenholloway Water Quality Project, one of the most ambitious environmental restoration efforts in Florida conservation history. The project will restore a stream currently designated “industrial” back to Class III standards – acceptable for recreational use.
Sustainability in action
At Georgia‐Pacific, we know how valuable our water resources are, and we are committed to operating our facilities with water reuse and conservation in mind.