Eel River Cleanup Crew: How One Man Started a Revolution

For over a year garbage has been piling up beside our roads–in nice neat bags suitable for carting to the dump. But it didn’t get there all by itself.

According to an Article in the Independent by Northern Mendocino’s newest blogger, Redway resident John Casali became aware of a health hazard–huge amounts of trash dumped on the banks of the Eel River. Some garbage was the result of local residents avoiding garbage fees by offloading mattresses and appliances and some was the result of large homeless encampments tossing their daily debris (including used hypodermic needles) alongside their living space. The Southern Humboldt area’s temperate weather and rural spaces attract many people whose financial situation makes renting impossible.

Casali attempted to get help cleaning up from government officials and received replies ranging from (I’m paraphrasing here) “Don’t touch the stuff. It’s could be dangerous” to “It’s the fault of the welfare system. We can’t help you.”

No Agency, state or county official was willing to take responsibility for change. Finally, Casali himself started collecting trash and with the help of numerous volunteers removed tons of garbage. The volunteers included some of the homeless, an environmental group–Friends of the Eel River, and even the Southern Humboldt Rescue Team led by Diana Totten who practiced their rappelling skills on steep cliffs and bagged up 3100 lbs of garbage at the same time.

Over 100,000 pounds of refuse has been pulled from the Eel River’s watershed. Most of it has been hauled out in gross, grubby bagfuls by volunteers but just recently there have been neatly bundled packages with thank you notes attached like the picture above.

The Eel River Cleanup Crew is building an informative website explaining their Mission statement, filled with their history, and with a heartfelt though somewhat blurry video. Right towards the end, there is a horrifying scene of one trash area from which pounds and pounds of used adult diapers were taken. Apparently, some meth users find defecating in their pants preferable to using the outdoors. Thanks to the hard work of one man who decided to pitch in and make a change those diapers and thousands of pounds more of trash won’t ever find their way into the Eel River and into the water systems of our local towns.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VexvuVfryj4&hl=en]

To date more than $30,000 have been spent on dump fees, gas, food for volunteers and payment for homeless workers. There is a need for much much more. Monetary donations for this effort may be sent to the Southern Humboldt Community Credit Union, 757 Redwood Driver, Garberville, CA 05542, (named Eel River Clean-up Fund). You can also make a Paypal donation.

I made a small donation in the past. I’m making a bigger donation today. How about joining in?

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22 comments

  • Kym, Thank-you for pointing out this project. The Garberville Rotary and many others have donated to the clean-up effort. John Casali takes a personal interest in the clean-up because he has worked on the river as a fishing guide, and has seen the changes through the years. He’s like my own personal hero.

    River clean-up is a good place for someone who doesn’t believe in any other environmental cause to involve themselves. It is clearly an environmental problem, and cleaning it up is a clear solution.

    One problem is our local recycling station that won’t take, or charges a ridiculous price, to get rid of trash. Television sets or computer monitors cost $25.00 to get rid of. While if you take them to Fortuna they only cost $12.50. In lake County they don’t charge anything extra. Many people find it easier to dump along the river, or in road turn outs. I even saw someone stuffing the trash in a roadside orange bag one morning.

    Our trash collection system needs to become more user friendly. It doesn’t make economic sense to be picking somebody else’s crap (literally) off the river bar.

    As an aside; you pay a disposal fee when you buy a television. What happens to that money? Is it given to the County? Is it kept by the state? Something stinks worse than the garbage, and I think it is our politicians.

  • Kym, Thank-you for pointing out this project. The Garberville Rotary and many others have donated to the clean-up effort. John Casali takes a personal interest in the clean-up because he has worked on the river as a fishing guide, and has seen the changes through the years. He’s like my own personal hero.

    River clean-up is a good place for someone who doesn’t believe in any other environmental cause to involve themselves. It is clearly an environmental problem, and cleaning it up is a clear solution.

    One problem is our local recycling station that won’t take, or charges a ridiculous price, to get rid of trash. Television sets or computer monitors cost $25.00 to get rid of. While if you take them to Fortuna they only cost $12.50. In lake County they don’t charge anything extra. Many people find it easier to dump along the river, or in road turn outs. I even saw someone stuffing the trash in a roadside orange bag one morning.

    Our trash collection system needs to become more user friendly. It doesn’t make economic sense to be picking somebody else’s crap (literally) off the river bar.

    As an aside; you pay a disposal fee when you buy a television. What happens to that money? Is it given to the County? Is it kept by the state? Something stinks worse than the garbage, and I think it is our politicians.

  • What I don’t understand about the cost difference between here and Fortuna is ‘aren’t they the same company?’

    There is a slightly longer haulage but, criminy, not $12 extra for each tv etc. Luckily I can afford the costs, but I feel sorry for people who can’t especially the homeless. I’m willing to chip in a little extra so that the beautiful Eel stays that way!

    I agree about John Casali being a hero, too. He gets my vote for local citizen of the year. And Kudos to all the people who help (especially Diana who is a childhood friend).

  • What I don’t understand about the cost difference between here and Fortuna is ‘aren’t they the same company?’

    There is a slightly longer haulage but, criminy, not $12 extra for each tv etc. Luckily I can afford the costs, but I feel sorry for people who can’t especially the homeless. I’m willing to chip in a little extra so that the beautiful Eel stays that way!

    I agree about John Casali being a hero, too. He gets my vote for local citizen of the year. And Kudos to all the people who help (especially Diana who is a childhood friend).

  • I wish people would take responsibility for their irresponsible actions. Littering gets to me unlike anything else. From cigarette butts on our sidewalks, to fireworks on the beach, to bullet shells in the woods, I wish people would get it together! I report all incidents of littering I witness.
    One policy I like in Japan is how the kids clean the school, even in primary school, eliminating the need for janitors. I think this instills a mentality of “if I make a mess I have to clean it up.” I admit I occasionally made a mess of my public schools from time to time because I knew someone else would take care of it. It is ironic I read this blog right now because I just picked up a taxi driver’s to go lunch bag off of a park bench after he abandoned it there less than thirty minutes ago.
    Those who have contributed to taking care of our river are heroes in my eyes.

  • I wish people would take responsibility for their irresponsible actions. Littering gets to me unlike anything else. From cigarette butts on our sidewalks, to fireworks on the beach, to bullet shells in the woods, I wish people would get it together! I report all incidents of littering I witness.
    One policy I like in Japan is how the kids clean the school, even in primary school, eliminating the need for janitors. I think this instills a mentality of “if I make a mess I have to clean it up.” I admit I occasionally made a mess of my public schools from time to time because I knew someone else would take care of it. It is ironic I read this blog right now because I just picked up a taxi driver’s to go lunch bag off of a park bench after he abandoned it there less than thirty minutes ago.
    Those who have contributed to taking care of our river are heroes in my eyes.

  • This is just such a lovely story.

    I remember once going trekking to the Valley of Flowers in India, and one girl of our party would packet all our trash, (starting from the matches and cigarette butts) and carry them up hill and down dale for miles to find a dustbin. All when the trek was littered with plastic packets.

    But now that whole area is cleared and that thanks to another woman who was able to motivate a group.
    Read the story here: http://www.boloji.com/wfs5/wfs943.htm

    Individuals can do great things and when they inspire many, they can move (or clean) a mountain (or river)…..

    http://amloki.blogspot.com
    http://damyantiwrites.wordpress.com

  • This is just such a lovely story.

    I remember once going trekking to the Valley of Flowers in India, and one girl of our party would packet all our trash, (starting from the matches and cigarette butts) and carry them up hill and down dale for miles to find a dustbin. All when the trek was littered with plastic packets.

    But now that whole area is cleared and that thanks to another woman who was able to motivate a group.
    Read the story here: http://www.boloji.com/wfs5/wfs943.htm

    Individuals can do great things and when they inspire many, they can move (or clean) a mountain (or river)…..

    http://amloki.blogspot.com
    http://damyantiwrites.wordpress.com

  • As I mentioned a while back on my blog, it’s a bit far for one TV but Good Will Industries, in Ukiah, takes TVs and other appliances for free. Probably a two hour drive, one way, but might be worth it if a truck could be filled up and take one big load down there.

  • As I mentioned a while back on my blog, it’s a bit far for one TV but Good Will Industries, in Ukiah, takes TVs and other appliances for free. Probably a two hour drive, one way, but might be worth it if a truck could be filled up and take one big load down there.

  • Good post and video.

    Let’s all keep on picking up the trash.

  • Good post and video.

    Let’s all keep on picking up the trash.

  • Ren, like you, littering REALLY bothers me, to the point where I will yell (even if they can’t hear me because I’m in my car, and they are in their’s) at someone I witness throwing trash (in Chicagoland it’s usually cigarette wrappers & butts) out their car window. See, now, I’m getting all worked up thinking about it.

    On the other hand, stories like this are absolutely inspiring to read. Thanks, Kym.

  • Ren, like you, littering REALLY bothers me, to the point where I will yell (even if they can’t hear me because I’m in my car, and they are in their’s) at someone I witness throwing trash (in Chicagoland it’s usually cigarette wrappers & butts) out their car window. See, now, I’m getting all worked up thinking about it.

    On the other hand, stories like this are absolutely inspiring to read. Thanks, Kym.

  • From what I understand Mr. Casali lies about what homeless trash really amounts to in his business. This man blame homeless people for the ills of society instead the truth which is that homeless people are the result of the ills of society which is people like him who lie about others to make a hero of hinself. This man has stirred up a hatred of homeless people in Garberville and surrounding communities and is actually creating more of a problem than he is solving in his efforts to glorify self and gain popularity. He has even hired goons to rouogh up homeless people to intimidate them and chase homeless out of town. This reminds me of the hatred bigots had for blacks in the 50s and 60s, this is not a good sign and we must unite to stop this attitude of disregard for basic human dignity.

  • From what I understand Mr. Casali lies about what homeless trash really amounts to in his business. This man blame homeless people for the ills of society instead the truth which is that homeless people are the result of the ills of society which is people like him who lie about others to make a hero of hinself. This man has stirred up a hatred of homeless people in Garberville and surrounding communities and is actually creating more of a problem than he is solving in his efforts to glorify self and gain popularity. He has even hired goons to rouogh up homeless people to intimidate them and chase homeless out of town. This reminds me of the hatred bigots had for blacks in the 50s and 60s, this is not a good sign and we must unite to stop this attitude of disregard for basic human dignity.

  • Kate, I’ve not been to the homeless camps but if what he says is true (and I did once speak to a homeless couple who said the amount of trash was terrible and I have spoken to people who helped cleanup the homeless areas behind CALTRANs and that was awful) then it isn’t stirring up hatred but talking about a problem that needs to be addressed.

    Some people may be reacting to what he says in a hateful way. I have never heard the accusation that he has hired goons etc. before. Do you have any proof. We, as a society, need to step in if it is true but this is the first I have ever heard of this.

    I have heard from the couple that I spoke to about a year ago that he had hired them to pick up trash and they were grateful.

  • Kate, I’ve not been to the homeless camps but if what he says is true (and I did once speak to a homeless couple who said the amount of trash was terrible and I have spoken to people who helped cleanup the homeless areas behind CALTRANs and that was awful) then it isn’t stirring up hatred but talking about a problem that needs to be addressed.

    Some people may be reacting to what he says in a hateful way. I have never heard the accusation that he has hired goons etc. before. Do you have any proof. We, as a society, need to step in if it is true but this is the first I have ever heard of this.

    I have heard from the couple that I spoke to about a year ago that he had hired them to pick up trash and they were grateful.

  • This little story about John leaves out that he has created a hate for our houseless folks in our community.He STEALS Peoples survival gear ie: Tents,bags,blankets,tarps,all their clothes,food,id’s,birth cert,medicine,backpacks,diarys.One Kid lost his High School diploma,and his grandmothers ashes,then he takes it straight to the landfill.He works with the Sheriffs Dept., after they sweep people out, he swoops in and steals their EVERYTHING.We can’t let this go on anymore in our community.His own words”everything is garbage to me”. Then Disabled men,women and children are left to sleep outside without anything, right on the ground in cold winter weather.So John, the Fat cat is under shelter as he takes our community’s money.I notice he’s not going to the homes that have tons of garbage in front of them and confronting them.Theres more garbage from housed people out there than any.In his mind he’s a Hero, but when I read the Law, he’s someone that is breaking the law and picking on the folks in our community that need the most help!!! He uses houseless people to pick up his garbage,and then tells law enforcement where they are struggling to survive,and the process repeats itself.Please Stop Hurting People in our community John Casali!!!!

    • I have heard a few people saying similar things. I would like to know more but the young homeless couple I spoke to (2 years ago?) were delighted to be hired to clean up their own area. I spent a small amount of time in their company and was impressed by their work ethic (they were hitching a ride and I went to the dump. They jumped right in to help me.) They felt that by far what Casali was doing helped the whole community including the homeless.

  • This little story about John leaves out that he has created a hate for our houseless folks in our community.He STEALS Peoples survival gear ie: Tents,bags,blankets,tarps,all their clothes,food,id’s,birth cert,medicine,backpacks,diarys.One Kid lost his High School diploma,and his grandmothers ashes,then he takes it straight to the landfill.He works with the Sheriffs Dept., after they sweep people out, he swoops in and steals their EVERYTHING.We can’t let this go on anymore in our community.His own words”everything is garbage to me”. Then Disabled men,women and children are left to sleep outside without anything, right on the ground in cold winter weather.So John, the Fat cat is under shelter as he takes our community’s money.I notice he’s not going to the homes that have tons of garbage in front of them and confronting them.Theres more garbage from housed people out there than any.In his mind he’s a Hero, but when I read the Law, he’s someone that is breaking the law and picking on the folks in our community that need the most help!!! He uses houseless people to pick up his garbage,and then tells law enforcement where they are struggling to survive,and the process repeats itself.Please Stop Hurting People in our community John Casali!!!!

    • I have heard a few people saying similar things. I would like to know more but the young homeless couple I spoke to (2 years ago?) were delighted to be hired to clean up their own area. I spent a small amount of time in their company and was impressed by their work ethic (they were hitching a ride and I went to the dump. They jumped right in to help me.) They felt that by far what Casali was doing helped the whole community including the homeless.

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