Hacker Creek Owner Fined $215,000

Pacific Giant Salamander after Hacker Creek Diesel Spill

According to an article in today’s Time Standard, Albert Tordjman, owner of the Hacker Creek property where a diesel spill of approximately 1000 gallons occurred this last May, has been fined $215,000. The fine occurs on top of cleanup costs estimated to be around $200,000. In addition, criminal charges may be brought or civil charges filed.

The spill exacerbated increasing local concerns with marijuana grows. Environmental damage resulting from diesel generators powering illegal off the electric grid pot operations is perceived to be extensive by many in the community. In fact, monthly meetings are being held at the Vet’s Hall on the last Wednesday of each month to discuss the problem.

Melissa Martel of the Division of Environmental Health at the Dept. of Health and Human Services gave me some tips on how to use diesel as safely as possible. Following these procedures can save the environment whether the diesel is used to power generators, cars or agricultural equipment.

Secondary Containment is of Paramount importance. It can be as simple as a swimming pool, a dirt berm or semi-permanent bricks with a petroleum-resistant containment liner (such as a pond liner.)

Secondary containment needs to be:

  • Preferably under cover of a roof
  • 110% of original container (fuel tank)
  • Plus [be able to contain the] max 24 hour rainfall, if maintained daily–more if otherwise

Maintenance procedures need to include:

  • Weekly inspections of the entire system
  • Routine inspections of all outlets during refueling
  • Regular inspection of the secondary containment to make sure material in not compromised [leaking]

Furthermore, the document urges that fuel tanks be situated so that they can’t be damaged by vehicles and warns that “power outages can cause opening of valves, particularly celluloid valves.” The document reminds that

All fuel, chemical pesticides, and fertilizers need to be treated as toxic waste

  • [Kept] under cover of roof
  • Kept sealed, even when empty

Hazardous Waste can be disposed of from 9am to 1 pm Friday and Saturday at the Hazardous Waste Disposal at 1059 Hawthorne in Eureka

  • 15 gallon Household limit
  • Container size determines limit (2 gallons in a 5 gallon container is considered 5 gallons)
  • No appointment necessary

Finally, the document warns, that if a spill occurs, you deal with the county if it is only soil, but “if water contamination is involved you deal with the state and your neighbors!”

The cost of putting in containment is minimal compared to the serious fines the Hacker Creek owner now has to deal with.

Here is a link to the property’s sale page.

Links to earlier stories:

Fish and Game on Hacker Creek Spill

Not the First Spill

Hiking Hacker Creek

Hacker Creek Owner Apologizes

Hacker Creek Cleanup Better Than Expected

Hacker Creek Cleanup Continues



  • Right on!

    If it wasn’t for this photo, I might not appreciate the magnitude of the insult to Mother Nature.

  • It sounds like they’re saying “if you are going to grow, just do this…” when they should be saying :you’re going to jail. Not only is growing illegal but these diesel spills are illegal, this is illegal and that is illegal.”

    Kym, we all get fined now if we are talking on our cell phones, and we tolerate it – but if this is sanctioned and people are looking the other way or coaching them how to do it right – I have a problem with that. It isn’t fair to all of the people who live a law abiding life – people who obey the rules, who pay taxes, and so on and so on and so on.

    It seems to me this is exactly what the code enforcement people were supposed to be on top of.

  • Thank you, Jack.

    Rose, These are guidelines for EVERYONE who uses diesel–not just marijuana growers. Martel and her office in no way condone marijuana growing.

    However, when I was 16 my mother sat me down and said, ” I don’t want you to have sex before you get married but even more I want you to understand that I want you to be safe.” And then she discussed birth control and safe sex with me. I think we need to be aware that as long as people seek altered states (and they have for as long as human history can determine), people will grow marijuana. Let’s make sure that they have the knowledge to do it as safely as possible.

    Just saying marijuana growers ought to do jail time, hasn’t worked in the past. Our jails are overflowing. California now spends more on its prison system than on education. We are outsourcing our prisoners to other states and still our prisons are so bad that the United Nations has cited them as evidence of torture in America. Let’s be sensible adults, recognize that marijuana grows are happening now and will happen in the future, and let’s do whatever necessary to minimize the impact on our world.

    …Until we have the sense to legalize it.

  • Kym… Did you catch the KMUD interview with the Air Quality Control guy? The State is now requiring registration of all “agricultural diesel equipment” with an engine 50 HP or more. That would be a 30KW generator or bigger. The program is just beginning and doesn’t seem to have teeth yet. Thursday afternoon, concerned folks will be at Johanna Rodoni’s Garberville office to ask what the Supes might do to deal with this problem.

  • No, Ben, I hadn’t heard.

    Does this mean the owner registers when buying? Or is the owner subject to a fine if he doesn’t register an already purchased generator?

    I’d like to know more about this.

  • Ben, When on Thursday?

  • Your comments on the Californian/American prison system are quite stark and depressing, Kym . it seems to be a growing trend in Westren democracies for politicians to continually ramp up the penal solutions to everything, contnually trying to outdo each other with their “tough approach to law and order.” Interestingly, it was such an approach that finally led to the white settlement of Australia as an offshore solution to crime in England…

  • Kym… 1:30 Thursday, at Rodoni’s Garberville office where ever that is. I’m pretty sure the new machines must register but I think I heard that all diesel engines over 50 HP now in service must register. I missed any reference to fines but I suspect they will happen eventually. More will be revealed.

  • I think Rodoni’s office is by the library. I need to find out more about the diesel engines registering.

  • Kym,
    Just a minor clarification for the quantity of household hazardous waste that can be taken to Household Hazardous Waste facility in Eureka. Your posting says that the limit a person can take in is 1.5 gallons. The correct amount is 15 gallons as far as I know.

  • You are absolutely right! I will fix that right now.

  • Can we take your same argument of giving pot growers the knowledge to (grow pot) as safely as possible to other crimes?

    Is it any different than cooking meth?

    If someone doesn’t care about the law enough to not grow pot, why would they care enough to care about the earth and what happens to it through the pollution created?

    Don’t get me wrong, I think it should be legalized and tax the hell out of it.

  • Dj,

    Hey, good to have you drop by, guy. Give the little one a big hug and belly smooch from me.

    On the pot growing question, I’m coming from a different perspective.

    I take it you aren’t in favor of giving needles to drug injectors? Or, talking to teenagers about safe sex? Those are the same principal–Mitigating harm. And yes, I would prefer to give people who cook meth the info to do it as safely as possible rather than have them dumping their chemicals upstream from my water supply. Yes, I want them not to do what they do but “Just say no” hasn’t been a very effective strategy, I think.

    By the way, I’ve been known to break the speed limit. If I don’t care about the law enough to not do that, does that mean I’m likely to litter or to write grafitti on walls? No, and I don’t think there is a correlation between growing marijuana and not caring about the earth. In fact, many people I know, whom I assume grow, are very caring inhabitants of the earth. They try to drive vehicles that get good gas mileage, recycle, use organic foods, reduce their use of all consumer goods, reuse items whenever possible, etc.

    Morals are very tricky things. What I might assume is an essential behavior, might seem of very little importance to you and vice versa.

    And you can’t lump marijuana growers into one category any more than you can lump lawyers or ministers. Some of them will be environmentalists and some won’t.

    In my opinion, to protect the earth and more especially this beautiful part named Humboldt County, we need to get out all the information on how to grow safely AND we need to get out the information on all the harm diesel growing is doing to the environment. Hopefully, some people will make changes and hopefully, some people will stop altogether.

    But in the end, the best solution is legalizing, regulating, and taxing marijuana.

  • I wasn’t talking about morals but about the law. There is a difference between 2 high school kids having consentual sex and felony possession with intent to distribute.

    Everyone who uses chemicals and fuels should understand how to handle and dispose of those items properly. It was the statement that said they are going to grow so why not teach them to grow responsibly that caught my attention. Perhaps I’m over generalizing but I transfer that analogy over to other crimes and I don’t see the logic. But I dont’ live in SoHum where this is a big part of the economy. So I’m not surprised I have differing views.

    BTW: does wordpress support RSS? I didn’t realize I was missing so much of your world.

  • Dj, I think the difference in our views is that you must see marijuana as essentially harmful. I don’t see it as any more harmful than wine or whiskey.

    But, maybe you hold the law to be essentially sacred. Even if it is wrong, it should be followed. I’m a bit more chaotic than that.

    WordPress does support RSS. There should be an orange square in your address box. If not, I’m not sure how to get it. I have one, though so you should too.

    Will I see you at Elly’s wedding?

  • It isn’t that it is any more harmful than whisky or wine. Just that it is illegal. If whisky was illegal, I would say the same thing if the comment had been “bootlegging is going to happen so let’s show them how to do it responsibly”. Not all laws are sacred but there is difference between getting a speeding ticket and going to the pen. I prefer the prior rather than the latter so I tend not to do things that might end up with me in prison. My cornhole is much to sensative to want to spend any time in there.

    We will be at the wedding. Got our “suite” all reserved about a month ago. I hope Ken finds a place. Don’t know why they don’t just have a double wedding!

    BTW: in case you didn’t see my other comment I love your pictures. You are doing some amazing work with your pictures.

  • WordPress has a great way of making the comments available no matter where they are placed–even on posts from March! Yes, I read it (thank you very much!) and responded there, too. How did you get to that post?

  • just looking through your pictures on the main page.

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