"Not the First Spill"

Hard Day

Foreman of Northcoast Environmental Construction heading towards bags of diesel soaked absorbent pads.

A diesel spill occurred a week ago up Hacker Creek, a tributary of Salmon Creek probably Tuesday, May 13th. The spill was at an indoor marijuana grow. Through temperatures reaching into the hundreds, Northcoast Environmental Construction worked to clean up the mess– they removed diesel tanks, tore down a structure, laid absorbent materials, cut roads with cats and dug up soil.

The men have been working on the Hacker Creek spill in the Salmon Creek Watershed since Friday (see photo right depicting equipment removing soil saturated with fuel). Last Wednesday, the Department of Fish and Game received an anonymous call from a neighbor that diesel was pooling in the headwaters near Goat Rock. After some difficulty, late Thursday, authorities managed to confirm the problem and, by the next day, the crew were hard at work in unseasonably hot weather.

By Tuesday, the men had been struggling with diesel soaked soil through noxious fumes, in extreme heat for 5 days. One of the owners, Jim Crook age 70, who has a pacemaker implanted, almost had to be helped out of the site. Even a week later, the smell coming from the area is extremely potent. The crew of 9 is so exhausted from working through the weekend that substitutes are coming in from Willow Creek to take over.

According to the contractor, Jim Crook of Northcoast Environmental Construction, this is “Not the first spill [on the property]. There was one about 12 years ago.” In fact, Crook explains he has been on different properties in Salmon Creek several times in the last few years. “I work all over the county…. I don’t advertise. I have all the business I want.”

Jim Crook, part owner of Northcoast Environmental Construction

The site contained other hazardous wastes besides the spilled diesel (estimated to be around 1000 gallons.) There were a dozen old batteries littering the property. According to Consumer Reports, these contain lead and acids which are toxins. Besides the spill and batteries, another concern was two open buckets of anti freeze. The sweet smell attracts children, pets, and wildlife. As little as one tablespoon can cause death. Also, as the antifreeze moves through the engine, it picks up heavy metals that are toxic to fish and other aquatic life forms. If it had entered the creek, the damage would have been much worse.

“We’ve already recovered about 300 gallons of the spilt diesel.” Eventually, they hope to recover nearly all of it. But Crook explains that when his customers can call him quickly, costs go down because the damage hasn’t spread as far. The property owner at the current spill is paying costs of around $5000 per day cleanup. The current estimated time is around a month or $150, 000. According to the kind people at Apex North, a containment system for a thousand gallons basic pan would have run the operator of the system a little over $1500–a tenth of the cost. [EDIT: Sorry,1/100 the cost]

Crook says that some of the other hazardous materials could have been dealt with easily by the people there. Batteries can be recycled and so can anti-freeze. He suggests everyone look around their places and cleanup now.

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