The Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District has appealed the permitting of a Glendale cannabis manufacturing complex, stating that project’s development on a former lumber mill site runs the risk of “contaminating the district’s drinking water supplies.”

 

Filed on September 19 and revised a week later, the appeal challenges the county Planning Commission’s Sept. 5 approval of the project’s permits. At the hearing, the project site’s uncertain groundwater and soil contamination status was raised as an issue and it’s one that concerned commissioners.

 

Located on Glendale Drive just east of the Route 299 Exit 4 onramp and off ramp, the site was used for lumber storage by the former McNamara and Peepe Lumber Mill. By the time the mill changed ownership in 1986 and became Blue Lake Forest Products, use of the toxic wood preservative pentachlorophenol (PCP) had been banned.

 

Interviewed after the appeal was filed, Kalt said Baykeeper “has been trying to educate the county” because the appealed project is the fourth one that’s been permitted on former mill sites with potential contamination.

 

“They’re just not listening,” she continued.

 

The DTSC’s documents are outdated, inaccurate and don’t mention the district’s intakes or critical habitat for salmon and other species, said Kalt.

 

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A Norway-based aquaculture company will soon decide whether to pursue a project on Humboldt Bay’s former pulp mill site and its interest has highlighted the economic potential of the Samoa Peninsula.

 

At its Aug. 3 meeting, Humboldt County’s Board of Supervisors was updated on the project and its infrastructure-related challenges. The company, Nordic Aquafarms, entered a lease with the Harbor District, which owns the project site, but now has doubts due to the need to upgrade freshwater delivery infrastructure and the more expensive proposition of removing turbidity.

 

Economic Development Director Scott Adair came to the meeting with good news – a federal funding source will pay 80 percent of the $3 million cost of improving the delivery infrastructure.

 

Water infrastructure isn’t the only utility concern on the Samoa Peninsula. Roads, bridges and broadband telecommunications infrastructure also need improvement or development and supervisors discussed forming a multi-jurisdictional Joint Powers Authority to handle it.

 

The Nordic project represents an initial $400 million investment and the creation of 100 primary and ancillary jobs. The site’s zoning includes aquaculture and the county is keen on promoting new industry.

 

But a letter of support for the project wasn’t approved without discussion and some debate. The letter is important to Nordic’s board of investors, which will decide on whether or not to go forward with the project on Sept. 15.

 

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The county Planning Commission’s review of a Glendale cannabis manufacturing project has exposed a lack of testing for dioxins on former mill and lumber storage sites, which could have implications for drinking water.

 

Considering the stakes, one commissioner described the lack of testing as “ridiculous.”

 

The uncertain contamination status of the project site eclipsed concerns about volatile manufacturing and an assumed link between cannabis and crime as the commission reviewed the project at its September 5 meeting

There were concerns about those uses from neighboring residents. But a more entrenched issue soon became apparent.

 

Ryan Plotz, the attorney for the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District, warned of potential effects on drinking water. “The district is seriously concerned that the project’s construction and operation will result in contaminated soils and groundwater flowing into the nearby Hall Creek, which flows into the Mad River and ultimately into the district’s downstream intake wells,” he said.

 

Plotz said groundwater levels of toxic pentachlorophenol (PCP) have “skyrocketed” since the sites were deemed uncontaminated in 2003.

 

“What’s really important is that no dioxin sampling has been done on the soil of this property at all. And these sites need to be tested for dioxins, not just pentachlorophenol – just as you would test old buildings for lead and asbestos, every lumber mill site in this county needs to be tested for dioxins.” 

 

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With conflicting and uncertain data on the contamination of a northern Humboldt former lumber mill site, there is concern about the safety of the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District's drinking water. Daniel Mintz reports.

 

Listen Now

Staff members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission — at least those well-spoken gentlemen who hosted a public meeting on Aug. 26 at the Wharfinger Building — would assure you that the nuclear waste should be very far down on that worry list. But some members of the public would tell you otherwise. That clash of viewpoints made for a very interesting two hours.

 

The original purpose of the meeting was to satisfy some pro forma requirement for public interaction, a necessary task to check a box on a bureaucratic to-do list. However, not a half hour in, some very concerned folks had seized control of the agenda and were letting the NRC and the PG&E public relations officer know exactly what they thought — and feared — about the legacy of Humboldt's experiment with nuclear energy.

 

In the 1950s, atomic energy was touted as the solution to all America's energy needs. In 1960, PG&E began construction of a nuclear power plant next to its existing conventional power plant at King Salmon. It went on line in 1962 at a cost of $33 million. Fifteen years later, PG&E took the plant off line, estimating at that time the cost of decommissioning would be $382 million. Fortunately, rate-payers had been contributing to this fund each month as we paid our monthly power bills. Apparently, we will continue to be paying for quite some time, as the final cost of decommissioning is now estimated at more than $1 billion.

 

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