With five words, it became official — Duluwat Island is being returned to the Wiyot people, for whom it is the physical and cultural center of the universe, a sacred piece of land with the power to bring balance to all else.

 

“Unanimous yes vote. Motion carries,” said Eureka City Clerk Pam Powell, drawing a standing ovation from the hundreds of people who had filled the Adorni Center this morning to watch the city take the unprecedented step of returning 200 acres of land stolen generations ago to the Wiyot Tribe, which has called the North Coast home since time immemorial.

 

The emotional ceremony saw multiple generations of local residents gathered in the Adorni Center to witness the historic vote, many wiping tears from their eyes. 

 

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The DTSC’s documents are outdated, inaccurate and don’t mention the district’s intakes or critical habitat for salmon and other species, said Kalt.

 

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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.

 

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Californians need to know if the fish they catch are safe to eat, so the state keeps spending money on testing fish for mercury. 

 

Cal EPA recently awarded another grant to Humboldt Baykeeper to continue its mercury testing program, this time on some species of fish that were not the focus of previous testing. 

 

Those earlier tests revealed that not all the fish on the North Coast are safe to eat all the time. 

 

Jennifer Kalt is Humboldt Baykeeper's director and our guest.  

 

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