RYAM Open House a Friendly Affair

The crowd at the RYAM bioethanol open house Wednesday was mostly neighbors wondering about this new operation on their doorsteps. They didn’t necessarily leave convinced, but they didn’t arrive ready to fight, either.

For starters, the new operation is within the footprint of industrial operations they’ve lived with for years. And the dozens of staffers on hand were friendly and open to questions. They weren’t the marketing department, either. People from all departments were on hand. Even top managers.

Truck traffic was one thing on people’s minds. Wastewater runoff was another. And, of course, safety.

Let’s start with safety. Many people think that if there’s a fire in an ethanol operation, it’ll take huge amounts of water to quench it. In fact, foam—not water—will quench an ethanol fire. The fire suppression system that will be built into the new operation will include a lot of foam. The second layer of safety is a concrete shell around the entire operation. The fire inside might be an inferno, but the outer shell is intended to contain it.

And what about explosions? The volatility of ethanol and gasoline is comparable. In fact, what you put in your tank when you gas up typically is about 10 percent ethanol – sitting out there on your driveway or in your garage.

Truck traffic estimates have been bandied about, but the current estimate is no more than three trucks a day. Is that acceptable? The reasonable answer probably right now is: “It depends.” It depends on when they come and go and how noisy they are. And whether they’re making it that much harder to merge into Eighth Street traffic.

Wastewater, according to employees, will be minimal by the time it gets to the ethanol operation, but that doesn’t mean the entire operation won’t generate several gallons of waste per gallon of ethanol and won’t raise issues of environmental alarm. Many environmental activists believe water from the entire Rayonier operation is not monitored as well as it should be. We already are sending unfriendly chemicals, they say, into the St. Marys River as it creates the magnificent bay that we – and thousands of tourists – love. Will this new bioethanol plant add a few more liters into the river?

The answer is we don’t know. Our testing is not vigorous enough to give us an answer.

There were a few protesters with hand-made signs on Gum Street – outside the Rayonier boundaries. Just a few, and just a tiny bit of impact. But, like all things under the sun, that could change. Here is the take from one:

Laura Robinson of Fernandina Beach was one of five protesters stationed at the intersection of Eighth Street and Gum.

“I didn’t know anything about this until two days ago when other friends who are here told me about it. I started reading about what the actual conversion to ethanol would mean on the island. I already get all the odors from the paper mills. I’m concerned they’re putting something so close, especially a company that seems to have millions of acres where they can do the same work without bringing a lot more trucks here transporting a dangerous material in and out.”

Her thoughts on the open house: “It seemed like a cocktail party. The RYAM employees seemed very nice and congenial. But I didn’t come away with any new information.”

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Bill Fold
Noble Member
Bill Fold(@bill-fold)
1 month ago

Whoever wrote this piece, no wonder you didn’t autograph it, because you suck at copy and paste! That would actually be funny if this wasn’t such a serious subject. You had one job, and you managed to blow it. And to the proofreader, you did, too. Geeze!

Mike Lednovich
Trusted Member
Mike Lednovich(@mike-lednovich)
1 month ago
Reply to  Bill Fold

Thanks for your comments. We messed up getting the story posted correctly. Here’s what should have been available to readers.

Karen Schaffner
Active Member
Karen Schaffner(@karen-schaffner)
1 month ago

I was hoping to see legitimate coverage of this important event. What a disappointment.

Active Member
1 month ago

Have we checked all food to see if exploding them makes them into something better or did we just stop at corn?

Ben Martin
Trusted Member
Ben Martin(@ben-martin)
1 month ago
Reply to  SnappyClam

BioFuel from Hemp. It could be part of the future……

It is “Biodegradable”

Same thing for plastics made from Hemp Seed oil.


Mark Tomes
Active Member
Mark Tomes(@mtomes)
1 month ago

Although the article states that the marketing team was not at the meeting, it sure sounds like it was there in full force, albeit in a different form. One should never rely on the “fact sheets” or presentations provided by those who are set to profit on a project. A detailed and comprehensive plan should be provided by RYAM and then analyzed by third-party experts. And whatever is allowed, if anything, should be the limit of what is developed. But will the local authorities stand up to the much-revered gods of RYAM? Don’t count on it.