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Groundwater Levels Drop as International Paper Resumes Operations

Groundwater Levels Drop as International Paper Resumes Operations

Map of groundwater wellsAs a follow up to HRPDC’s March 29, 2012 Special Report “Groundwater Levels Recover as International Paper Negotiates Permit,” staff has continued to monitor trends in groundwater levels since the June 2010 closure of International Paper (IP) and the June 2012 resumption of limited operations.

The chart below shows how groundwater levels responded to changes in IP’s withdrawal rates from January 2000 through December 2012. As expected, groundwater levels in monitoring wells 55B and 55A near IP (see map at left) responded quickly when IP reduced groundwater withdrawals, rising rapidly toward the surface. Water levels then began falling when IP resumed operations.

IP's withdrawals appear to have less impact on groundwater levels in areas further from the mill. At monitoring wells 57F and 55E ground water levels still show signs of IP’s influence, but the impacts are muted and it takes longer for the effects of changes in IP's withdrawals to appear in water levels observed at these distances.

The International Paper mill in Franklin, Virginia holds a permit to withdraw up to 1,173 million gallons per month of groundwater from its well field. IP began scaling back operations and reducing groundwater withdrawals in the last quarter of 2008. The mill closed in mid-2010 and IP’s withdrawals continued to decrease to 45 million gallons per month by January 2012. In 2012, IP resumed groundwater withdrawals with the commencement of a new pulp production process. Withdrawals peaked at over 581 million gallons in August 2012; the average withdrawal from June through December 2010 was 372 million gallons per month, approximately one third of the Mill’s pre-2009 withdrawal rate.

Groundwater Levels

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September 8, 2020 - Katie Cullipher, Principal Environmental Eduction Planner