Diesel Spills: How Long do their Results Last?
Red Diesel Floating on Hacker Creek
This spring’s spill of diesel on Hacker Creek killed many invertebrates and harmed other wildlife as well as forcing residents to find other water sources BUT the harmful effects may continue subtly for years.
Long time resident and amateur naturalist Ben Schill relates how, 20 years ago when indoor marijuana first began to be grown with diesel generators, the sudden drop in noise level from an upstream home alerted him to a change in his community. Because it was in the midst of harsh winter storms, Schille waited a month or two to walk upstream and discover what caused the blessed noise reduction. He discovered that the 4 cylinder diesel generator that had previously been pumping out energy for an indoor grow had exploded! The resulting fire “burned all the trees” ten to twelve feet from his creek.
Even these many years later, Schill looks distressed as he exclaims, “This could have been a terrible fire if it hadn’t happened in rainy season.” Upset but relieved that there hadn’t been more of a fire, he says, “I didn’t pursue it . Didn’t want to fight with the neighbors.”
But to his chagrin, the area around the creek began to change. Trees in the area began dying–especially alders and one beautiful old yew tree. Schill concedes there was a drought during some of this time but he says that there is a drought now and the alders are growing back anyway. He blames the fuel spill that resulted when the generator caught fire and burned the hose, releasing the toxic fuel. “[This is a result of the] slow effect of no more than 200 gallons of diesel that went into the creek.” Also he worries that the chemicals produced when the fuel burnt may have been more toxic than the diesel by itself.
The area has returned to much of its natural beauty but it has taken a long time.
I expect to do many repeat hikes up Hacker Creek to see the results of the spill. Hopefully, the beautiful watershed will not show the ill effects spoken of by Ben Schill. I hope that the recent attention brought to the spill (especially by the North Coast Journal allowing me to write a cover story about the event) helps people seach for ways to minimize problems associated with diesel grown marijuana.