The Aftermath of Hacker Creek
Hacker Creek: After the Diesel Spill
A year and a half after the Hacker Creek Diesel spill, the owner is dead, the land is damaged (though recovering), and the cleanup operator, NorthCoast Environmental has taken possession of the property.
In May of 2008, approximately 600 gallons of red diesel overflowed from an indoor marijuana grow’s fuel room and oozed 60 feet through shale to a clear creek high in the Humboldt Hills.
The fuel used to operate the generator spread so far down the rugged streambed that when a neighbor smelled the pungent odor and investigated; he found “20 to 30 pools of red diesel” far below the spill.
The scent became so overwhelming that the man was “unable to go in further due to possible respiratory problems.” In spite of a culture of privacy that covers the North Coast hills, the neighbor called authorities.
When law enforcement, as well as Fish and Game arrived, they discovered that a large one thousand gallon diesel tank had been used to fill a smaller tank. The valve had been left open and somewhere between 500 and 1000 gallons drained onto the surrounding ground. Because of the permeable nature of the rock in that area, the fuel soon reached the creek below.
Rapidly, a contractor, Northcoast Environmental Construction, began deploying absorbent pads, pillows and booms from what eventually became three semi trucks packed tightly with the material. Within days, the crew began removing the saturated soil with heavy equipment.
The hole eventually reached around 15 feet deep. The huge amounts of contaminated soil couldn’t be dealt with on site and soon large trucks muscled their way up curvy dirt roads to carry it several hundred miles to Redding to be remediated.
The work was hard, hot, and expensive. Almost a year later, the results of the spill ooze throughout the close-knit communities of Southern Humboldt County. The spill changed the creek, the community, and the owner of the property where the fuel spilled.
Tordjman was caught between two hard facts. He had to pay the over $200,000 in fines and the cleanup costs. If he did not, the fines increased to over $500,000 but, he could not afford to pay until he sold the land.
Before the spill, Albert Tordjman owned a remote beautiful 40 acre piece worth well over $500,000 and was able to afford long vacations out of the country in Thailand. The spill changed his life. The stress of possible legal ramifications drove him into the hospital. Costs of the cleanup reached $5000 per day for over a month and those costs piled on his shoulders. According to various sources, he had rented his Red Gypsy Ranch to other people and left for Thailand to spend time in his wife’s home country in 2007. He arrived back in this country on or around the time the spill occurred. His renters melted into the hillside and he was left facing crippling fines. (The italicized piece was adapted from Issue Number 4 of Humboldt Grow.)
Wednesday, Sept 16, Albert Tordjman died in Thailand. His obituary in the SF Gate paints a picture of a successful man–“He was a world-renowned chef” and successful business man. He also appears in this YouTube video.
Video of Hacker Creek Owner, Albert Tordjman in happier times
But the obituaries, understandably, don’t talk about one of his most enduring legacies here on the North Coast. The diesel spill into the beautiful clear waters of Hacker Creek wasn’t intentional but it changed his life and the lives of his neighbors forever. Not only did Mr. Tordjman face financial ruin and lose his property but the stress of the resulting cleanup made him ill and may have contributed to his death.
Northcoast Environmental part owner, Jim Crook, explained to me that his company now owns the property but there has been some vandalism and some natural consequences to the property being left unattended that will take his team awhile to deal with. Maybe by next spring the property will be on the market.
Today, walking the stream, ferns brush clear water…and absorbent pillows. Hacker Creek, its community, and the owner of the indoor marijuana grow where the spill happened will never be the same. Although she was speaking about the producers of indoor marijuana, Bonnie Rolandelli could be speaking to those who chose to purchase indoor pot over outdoor, too. “The land is forever and we are so fleeting…Think about what you’re doing….for your children, and their children.”
Another Tordjman link:
Chronicle (CTRL F- tordjman)
(The italicized paragraphs were adapted from Issue Number 4 of Humboldt Grow.)