Ecusta, You could make a difference.

By Mike Cody and Phillip Gibson

On February 18, 2003, Ecusta, a paper mill located in Pisgah Forest, NC, will be sold in an open auction. This auction will take place in two parts. Bids will be taken to sell the mill as a whole. Then bids will be taken to sell the mill in pieces. On February 19, a Federal Judge in Delaware will decide which bid to accept.

What will happen to the environment if the mill is sold in pieces? Will the money obtained in this type of sale (dividing the company into pieces) be used for continued environmental management or to remediate the remaining environmental conditions? If it is sold in pieces, and the and the buyers take possession immediately there may be no management of the environmental systems and waste may begin discharging into the Davidson and French Broad Rivers. At this time, the outcome of this type of sale is unclear because none of the parties involved with the sale have presented the State of North Carolina with a plan of how the environmental issues will be managed if sold in pieces. This is also disturbing because Nathu Puri had to be pressured by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources into maintaining staff and power that would treat the facility's waste and prevent it from entering the Davidson and French Broad Rivers.

The best option is that the company would be sold and bought as a whole unit - a whole company that could begin operations soon after being purchased. This would also mean that the buyer would manage both the company and the environmental systems. This is best for the people, the economy of Transylvania County, and the French Broad River.

There are companies interested in purchasing Ecusta as a whole entity and want to resume operations. These companies, however, may not win the bid. The mill could be sold in pieces.

The decision of how and who will purchase Ecusta will be that of Judge Peter Walsh of the Federal Bankruptcy court in Delaware on February 19 - the day after the auction. Judge Walsh will review all the bids - both as a whole and in pieces - and will make a ruling that will certainly influence the future of Transylvania County and our region. You, however, have the opportunity to influence this fate. The people of Transylvania County, the people of our region and State need Ecusta to be purchased as a whole unit and brought back as a viable corporation. We need you to join the employees of Ecusta, RiverLink and others by writing and asking the court to understand the negative implications of dividing the financial assets and ceasing operations. Should you decide to write a letter to Judge Walsh prior to February 18, it will be read by the court and may help set a course for bringing back jobs and protecting the French Broad River. Your letters should be sent to the Chambers of the Honorable Peter J. Walsh, Chief Judge; 824 Market Street; 6th Floor; Wilmington, Delaware 19801.

You may contact the French Broad Riverkeeper at 828.252.8474 ext 114 for more details on this matter.

Phillip Gibson is the French Broad Riverkeeper™ and works for RiverLink, a non-profit membership based organization focused on the French Broad River watershed. Phillip has over ten years experience in water quality issues. RiverLink is located in Asheville, NC.

Mike Cody has been the Director of Environmental Health and Safety at the Ecusta Mill, in Pisgah Forest, NC, since April 1999. Mike has 28 years of experience in dealing with environmental issues in the Pulp and Paper Industry.