Water district demands ‘risk analysis for dioxin in water’

HOT ZONE The Glendale location of the planned cannabis processing facility. Humboldt County image

Daniel Mintz
Mad River Union

GLENDALE – Warning that a potentially contaminated Glendale site could pose a threat to drinking water, the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District is demanding that a state agency “adequately investigate” the risk of dioxin migration.

​A July 23 letter from the district’s contracted legal firm, Thomas Law Group, to officials from the State Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) states that the agency “has failed to make aggressive remediation a priority, despite the site’s proximity to the Mad River, the district’s drinking water supply, and private wells.”

​The district’s concern lingers after the Planning Commission’s approval last September of four cannabis-related development permits on a Glendale Drive parcel just east of the Route 299 Exit 4 on ramp and off ramp.

The project site was used for lumber storage by the former McNamara and Peepe Lumber Mill, whose main operations were conducted on an adjacent parcel. 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.

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But contamination remained and in the mid-1990s, the state ordered remedial actions, including capping at the main operations site.

​As of 2003, the former mill’s storage and main operation sites were deemed to be free of contaminants. But in late 2018, the DTSC declared that contaminants in the soil beneath the capped area had seeped into groundwater whose levels had risen.

Concerned about potential effects on drinking water sourced from the nearby Hall Creek, which flows into the Mad River, the district appealed the development approvals. The appeal was withdrawn last May, after testing showed that PCP and dioxin levels are low at the project site.

But a May 18 letter informing the county of the appeal’s withdrawal states that the district may “make further legal demands” related to the site contamination and clean-up and “looks forward to reviewing DTSC’s plans to investigate, monitor, and aggressively remediate the source/s of the contamination at the McNamara & Peepe site.”

The more recent letter states that “the DTSC has never performed a risk assessment for the risk presented by dioxin in water, despite acknowledging the site’s proximity to the Mad River and potential for contamination to migrate to the district’s drinking water supply.”

It adds, “Because of this, the level of risk to the district’s drinking water supply is unknown.”

The district is demanding a “risk analysis for dioxin in water” along with sampling and monitoring of surface water, soil, and private wells near the former mill site.

“Finally, the district has ongoing concerns that DTSC is either willfully or negligently failing to provide transparent information regarding the site,” the letter states.

The district is also asking for a meeting with DTSC officials by August 31, to discuss the concerns and “to ensure that DTSC prioritizes aggressive investigation and remediation of the site without continued delay.”



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