Humboldt Baykeeper Takes Legal Action to Protect Local Waterways

December, 2017



In 2017, Humboldt Baykeeper successfully took action to reduce storm water pollution from several industrial sites in the Humboldt Bay and Mad River watersheds. In 2018, our legal team will be working to monitor compliance with agreements designed to protect local waterways.


The Hawthorne Transfer Station discharges storm water runoff into Palco Marsh and ultimately to Humboldt Bay. Photo: Jennifer Kalt.

HWMA’s Hawthorne Transfer Station

Humboldt Waste Management Authority’s (HWMA) Board of Directors recently approved the settlement of a federal lawsuit alleging that HWMA’s Hawthorne Transfer Station in Eureka was discharging polluted storm water runoff into Palco Marsh and ultimately into Humboldt Bay. HWMA agreed to make specific improvements to the facility to reduce discharges of copper, zinc, aluminum, and other pollutants. HWMA also agreed to develop and implement a master plan to address storm water compliance in plans to expand operations onto an adjacent property in 2018. 

As partial mitigation for past release of pollutants, HWMA will contribute $27,500 to the City of Eureka for the Elk River Estuary Enhancement Project to restore coastal wetlands on more than 110 acres in Humboldt Bay and improve water quality and fisheries habitat. The project will also increase coastal access to hikers and kayakers. 

Royal Gold’s Potting Soil Facility Near Blue Lake


In June, Humboldt Baykeeper settled a lawsuit with Royal Gold, LLC over alleged storm water pollution from the company’s potting soil facility at the former Blue Lake Forest Products mill in Glendale. Royal Gold’s runoff contained nitrates, phosphates, metals, and sediment at higher levels than allowed under its state storm water permit and the federal Clean Water Act. These pollutants are known to be harmful to coho salmon, steelhead, and other protected species. The company agreed to invest in critical upgrades designed to reduce pollutants in discharges to Hall Creek, a Mad River tributary. 

In August 2016, Baykeeper appealed the Humboldt County Planning Commission’s approval of Royal Gold’s Conditional Use Permit to construct a building and allow for a significant increase in the production of potting soil. However, the December 2017 appeal hearing was postponed for various reasons, including the revelation that Royal Gold had already constructed the building without proper permitting. The County has since called for biological assessments of wetlands, frog habitat, and soil testing for dioxins to address Baykeeper’s concerns. The appeal is still pending. 

Although some former lumber mill sites may be appropriate locations for new cannabis–related businesses, many of them are contaminated with industrial chemicals, including dangerous and long-lasting dioxins from the use of a wood preservative, pentachlorophenol. Soil and groundwater at these sites should not be disturbed before testing, just as old buildings are likely to contain lead
and asbestos.


California Redwood Company stores wood chips for export at its Samoa Chip Dock on Humboldt Bay.  Photo: Jennifer Kalt.

California Redwood Company stores wood chips for export at its Samoa Chip Dock on Humboldt Bay. Photo: Jennifer Kalt.

California Redwood Company’s Chip Dock in Samoa


Humboldt Baykeeper filed a Clean Water Act suit against California Redwood Company, alleging the Company’s Wood Chip Dock and former mill site on the Samoa Peninsula were not complying with the requirements of its permit for discharges of storm water associated with industrial activity. In this case, both parties worked quickly and cooperatively to resolve the litigation, and are confident that changes in best management practices California Redwood Company is undertaking will prove beneficial. As part of the settlement agreement, California Redwood Company contributed $35,000 to Friends of the Dunes to enhance wetlands that are beneficial to the water quality of Humboldt Bay. 



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