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Attorneys for Champion International and the Dead Pigeon River Council will meet Thursday in Knoxville, Tenn., to search for common ground in the papermaker's ongoing permit battle.

The continued roadblocks are likely to delay for years layoffs that officials said would halve the 1,800-man work force at the Canton mill.``We still have to operate the mill, and we have been hiring some people in the work force,' said company spokesman Charles Curtis Friday.

A permit issued this past fall gives Champion three years to comply with limits on color, dioxin and a dozen pollutants in the wastewater it dumps at a rate of 43 million gallons a day.

But because of challenges by the company and Tennessee environmentalists, much of the permit has been suspended pending outcome of those appeals.

Both challenged testing methods and each state's existing water color standards, setting up new hearings that Champion supporters say are the eighth opportunity for public comment.

Thursday's meeting precedes an evidentiary hearing before EPA administrative law judge Thomas Yost, who will rule on objections to the 32-page permit.

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