Old Laytonville Dump Possibly Impacting Lives in Long Valley; Pollution From It Empties Into the South Fork of the Eel River

Peggy Hoaglin of Laytonville [All photos by Kelley Lincoln]

The headwaters of the South Fork of the Eel River have been continuously tainted by polluted seepage from the Laytonville dump for fifty years. Preliminary results from a community health study currently underway suggest people in Laytonville may be up to five times more likely to have cancer than elsewhere in California. And the California State Water Resources Control Board identified significant pollution in 1974, but the dump continued to operate until 1993, was poorly capped in 1997, and has never been fully remediated as ordered.

Longtime Laytonville local, Peggy Hoaglin, has been fighting the dump and its pollution since the 1980s, and she has enlisted the help of her Pastor, David Sanchez, formerly of the Redway Baptist Church for 25 years. They held a community meeting at the Laytonville Lyons Club Monday the 26th of March to alert the community of the preliminary data coming in from a community health survey being conducted in consultation with Green Action for Health and Environmental Justice.

Pastor Sanchez

Pastor Sanchez

Pastor Sanches opened the meeting. He explained he’s known Peggy for the 20 years she served as the Secretary for the Redway Baptist church just across the corner from the KMUD radio station.

Sanchez said he didn’t want to be involved and didn’t get involved until he came to Laytonville to pastor at the church there, though he continues to reside in Redway. He told the people at the meeting, “I pastored her church in Redway. I just said, ‘I’m the pastor of the church and that’s my focus.’ I basically just ‘stiff-armed’ her for the better part of twenty years. But when I came down [to Laytonville] to pastor, I began to see…I began to realize there’s a problem here.”

Sanchez referenced the opinion of some who think the problem is being over-estimated, when he said, “Here’s what we know from someone in the highest levels of the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs), ‘It would take billions of dollars to clean this up. If it could even be cleaned up.’ Did I say that? Did Peggy Hoaglin say that?…Did Greenaction and Bradley Angel say that? No, that came from the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.” Sanchez concluded the dump is “something they’ve been dealing with for many years. And that man looked at us and just simply said ‘It’s too big. It can’t be cleaned up really. We’d have to throw billions of dollars at it’”

Meanwhile, Sanchez reported that while not yet complete, the map of Laytonville is heavily dotted with homes where people have cancer diagnoses. “I want you to see it’s not just a Cahto [Rancheria] problem….We have a comprehensive problem on the Rancheria and Laytonville. How much of Laytonville? I don’t know. Why don’t I know? Because there isn’t sufficient testing….We need more testing. Real, earnest, genuine, sincere, fact-finding testing that doesn’t have a political agenda…because your life doesn’t have a political agenda.”

Sanchez points out the problem does not stop in Laytonville, it flows all the way to the sea because the dump’s leachate seeps into Cahto Creek, empties into Ten Mile Creek, empties into the South Fork Eel River, which Sanchez points out, is a top five priority watershed for the California Water Action Plan

Clean-up and Abatement Ordered in 1974

The problems leaching from the dump were ordered to be discontinued by the State Water Resources Control Board in 1974 when Clean up and Abatement Order #74-95 was issued. David Joseph from the NCWRCB wrote“The County of Mendocino is negligently or intentionally causing or permitting the discharge of leachate….” And “The discharge of said waste is unreasonably affecting the water quality in that it is deleterious to fish and other aquatic life which exist in said waters to a degree which creates a hazard to the public health since downstream waters are used for domestic and agricultural water supply and will therefore create a condition of pollution which threatens to continue unless the discharge of waste is permanently abated.”

The Board then ordered, “Permanently abate the threat of any further discharge of waste to the waters of Cahto Creek and its tributaries by November 1, 1974.”

Peggy Hoaglin’s Activism

Peggy Hoaglin grew up moving in and out of Laytonville and married her high school sweetheart Louis Hoaglin. She still gets a schoolgirl’s twinkle in her eye when she refers to him, even casually. It’s heartbreaking to her that her beloved husband has stage four metastasized kidney cancer.

Peggy Hoaglin 

Hoaglin joined neighbors fighting to close the dump back in the 1980’s. Then in 1993, Hoaglin’s granddaughter was born and immediately suffered severe breathing difficulty. The dump’s Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) emissions were the suspected cause when the 3-month-old infant required CPR and had to spend two weeks in ICU after she stopped breathing altogether one day. Within a month of that incident, Hoaglin said she chained herself to the dump’s fence.

Hoaglin said the community’s activism finally got the attention of the county government and the dump was ordered closed later in 1993. Although it was capped in 1997, it was never lined and continues to leak into the groundwater.

Because of their granddaughter’s breathing problems, the Hoaglin family moved over near Covelo where they remained until her husband had a heart attack a few years ago. He was subsequently diagnosed with the kidney cancer. As a result, they have returned to Laytonville to be closer to health services.

When they returned, Hoaglin picked up where she left off, and although the dump is now closed, the pollution has never been remediated. Hoaglin is on the case of the Laytonville dump once again.

Hoaglin has reached out to Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice. Greenaction is assisting Laytonville residents to conduct a community health survey.

Getting the Data

According to its Executive Director, Greenaction’s mission focuses on environmental justice in low-income communities and communities of color. Greenaction works to empower residents so they can effectively interact with government and regulatory agencies to protect their environment and their health.

Bradley Angel from Greenaction explained the health survey. “We’ve worked together to develop thesurveyy. And those of you who’ve filled out the survery, you didn’t see leading questions like ‘don’t you think the Laytonville dump has caused your whatever.’ It doesn’t mention [the dump.] It asks…if you live on the rancheria or another part of town. And it lists a lot of different potential health problems.”

Angel really stressed the confidential nature of the survey. The addresses are there simply for mapping.

Angel said the results, though preliminary, are alarming enough that its organizers wanted to get the word out qickly and encourage the remainder or the survey’s recipients to complete the survey.

Five hundred and eleven surveys have gone out to people living in the north end of Long Valley. 169 have been returned. Of those 169, 23% of the respondants from Cahto Rancheria, just west of Laytonville and immediately next to the dump, have reported cancer diagnosis in their household and 19% of the respondants from Laytonville have reported a cancer diagnosis. This compares with a cancer rate of about 5% in Mendocino County as a whole. According to the Greenaction statiticians, two cancers are being identified at statistically significant levels—brain cancer and cervical cancer are both showing a .04% occurance compared to a statewide probability of a half percent (.005%).

Government Analysis Continues to Show ‘No Problems.’

Cancer clusters are not common. The American Cancer Society page on cancer clusters says, “most of the suspected clusters (as many as 4 of 5) are determined not to be true clusters and no further investigation is done.”

And in fact, California Department of Health Services wrote a report in 2005. The report references two sources: a 1994 cancer cluster investigation by the Mendocino County Health Department and the California Cancer Registry.

The 2005 CDHS report reads, “The findings [of the cancer cluster investigation] showed that cancer mortality rates within a 1­-mile radius of the landfill were similar to those for Mendocino County as a whole. It is possible that inaccuracies in cancer mortality records limited the ability of the studies to estimate cancer rates for this population. Although the MCHD and CCR cancer estimates may be somewhat wrong, there is no way to get a more accurate estimate.”

The report includes some suprising analysis, “Using available data, CDHS concludes that playing in the leachate, swimming in the sedimentation ponds, as well as playing in Cahto Creek or puddles formed from surface water runoff, and eating fish or eel from Cahto Creek in the past and currently pose a no apparent public health hazard. However, long-term exposure to the liquid that periodically leaks (leachate) from edges of the cap could pose a health hazard in the future.”

Describing the cap on the landfill, the 2005 CDHS report says, “All sides of the capped landfill are steep, and at least one side is seismically unstable because of poor design. Gaps are occurring at the edge of the landfill cap, and it is known that water containing VOCs has seeped from these gaps. These very real concerns add to the burdens that the landfill places on nearby residents.”

The 2005 CDHS report acknowledges there is a lot of missing data, but the Laytonville CSD tests the water from Cahto Creek regularly and has found no problems associated with the dump.

Seeking All Surveys

David Sanchez’s concerns are not yet abated though. Sanchez described his observations of the problem and the need for Greenaction’s community health survey, “You all know someone that has cancer, leukemia, birth defects, unusual diseases or has died of the same. There’s a problem. How far it spreads, how deep it is, I don’t know that. We need our government’s help to figure that out. We’re not getting it really.”

Meeting organizers stressed that the Community Health Survey results are preliminary because only a third of the surveys have been returned thus far. Residents of Laytonville who have received the community health survey are encouraged to complete and return it. If there is no health problem in your home, that is also necessary information because then the results will accurately reflect the scope of the problem.






  • Thank you for reporting this story, Kelly. We are facing a huge problem here in Long Valley. It’s something many of us have been aware of to some extent, but the data from the recent health surveys is bringing a new realization of the history and scope of the issue.

  • Maybe if they did get some kind of environmental investigation and assessment or and impact report the county of Mendocino could get some funding from the Government with the help of senator Huffman to hire environmental clean up companies to begin excavation and extensive cleanup up efforts by hauling the waste by either trucking and or trains to the desert or somewhere were all the waste can be incinerated this is a environmental catastrophe that should be addressed just because it’s in the middle of nowhere means it’s in the middle of somewhere in Northern California just think of all the wild life that is effected there about two summers ago I saw a bald eagle eating it’s catch on the bank of the eel river while fending off a few red tail hawks it was a pretty cool site and this was just north of Latonville not only humans are affected by this but all the wild life and everything that lives in the water around there is effected all the way to the ocean what a horrible and disgusting mess welcome to the gate way of the redwoods be sure to take a stop on your long hot summer drive and take a nice cool dip in the majestic Ell river you will never know you and your children are being exposed to toxic cancer causing leachate they really should do some testing and studies so that they know were to put up the danger corintine signs .

    • Quiet remember death from natural causes eco-friendly means we save money right get your leachate latte on your way to Heaven’s Gate how far down the drainage does this toxic sludge go all the way down to the ocean and it stops there nice sweep it under the carpet what Erin Brockovich chromium

  • At least the CWQCB has their priorities straight

    How can we be concerned about this when I have it on good authority that there are MARIJUANA GARDENS along the South Fork. Why should the State Water Board be distracted by this when there is all the leachate oozing from the MARIJUANA plants? What’s worse, is that all these gardens use a 6 inch pumps to de water the river. If it wern’t for the Laytonvile dump the Eel would be absolutly dry like a terrible desert. The flows from the dump must be the only reason we are seeing record returns of salmon, because I HEARD that the marijuana growers feed them pesticides so that when they are sucked into the giant irrigation pumps the plants will get a systemic dose, because thats what the crime syndicates prefer, because weed smokers enjoy the complex flavors of carbofuran. Good thing the potter valley project diverts some pure water away for the vineyards so it can’t be wasted on growing a mind altering substance luxery crop.

    • Those 6” pumps also run of John Deere Diesel engines that have no containment and should never be used to pump out of the South Fork the CWQCB needs a lot more funding in order to stop the illegal grows that are pumping from the river and as well clean up this horrendous dump mess and it’s cancer causing river polluting mess and make sure there’s absolutely no pumping out of the entire Eel River THANK YOU VERY MUCH 🕵🏻‍♂️🐸🐿🦌🐐🐂🐄🦔🐕🐎🐳🦈🐋🐙🦑🦐🦀🐡🐠🐥🐔🐮🐶🐰🐭🐻🤮🦅🦉🦎🐍🐟🦊🐝🐞🐛🦃🏊‍♀️🚣‍♂️🌶🍅🌽🍆🍑 🍉🍇🥑🍓🥕🥦🥔🥒🍠🧀🥩💧🌲🌾All of these people and animals and the food they eat from there garden’s are affected by pollution in the Eel River

      • Too literal minded ol' Yeller

        Dude I was being sarcastic. The water quality people act like just putting in the PLANT causes pollution just by it’s very nature, instead of aknowledging it’s the practices people are using. In their frenzy to get on board regulating weed, and collecting the associated fees, it seems our regulatory agencies are missing the big picture. Look at the oroville dam fiasco, and this. People have replaced science, and facts with politics, and assumptions when it comes to weed.

  • fuckwalterwhite.com

    If she didn’t notice and bring attention,it would be twice as full and the river would be dead. Good work.

  • Where’s that map? I want to see the map of cancer diagnoses near the dump I lived within two blocks of that dump for over a decade

    • It isn’t completed yet. Once the surveys are done and turned on the map will be completed.

      • you need to drill and collect water samples around the landfill to prove anything in court. every other effort will be fruitless. rural living has already been determined to be a high risk to cancer ratio due to a variety of things, like dumping paint thinner and other vocs on the ground in close proximity to your well. we don’t drink the water out of our well due to Silvex and newer herbicides used to kill the hardwoods. Harwood mill is not what you would call a clean property and it is close to this location and bankrupt. there is online analytical data for that cleanup site. bottled water is cheap when you put a value on your life.

  • Thank you Kelly Lincoln. . . I interviewed Peggy as she was being arrested, sitting in a lawn chair, blocking the gate, her husband staunch, standing behind her, his arms crossed, the most protective stare and stature I have ever recorded—and then published on the cover of New Settler Interview. If I remember correctly, Tom Allman was the arresting deputy and it was the most courtly and respectful arrest I have ever witnessed. It was right after that, the County folded: closed the dump . . . then walked away with their fingers covering their eyes like the blind monkey. . . . But one of the truths of our region is that the most significant steps are taken by dynamic duos, romantically involved . . . and with this wonderful couple, for all of their lives.

    • Thank you for that report from the past. I wondered what that day may have looked like.
      Love the New Settler!

  • Thats bullshit we depend on river water that goes into Rio Dell . I highly suspected because of the high cancer rate in our town and the city not given the people a up to date water quality assessment . “The last one correct me if I’m wrong” Was in 2003. There must be a direct reason as to not show the data to the public. Far as I’m concerned, there are multiple agencies at fault here. To allow people to shit on each others waterways is something that is being accepted by most. You would think that California being so rigid with it’s environmental agenda would set the standard. Instead we have a governor that enacts destroy the evidence paper work laws and is simply a slave to the money train. Money surpasses people’s ethics, health, welfare and position it would seem anymore!

  • Believe this Mendocino might let it shine, People and gov. of Humboldt will dream money trees over this info . There is no telling how many agencies will be in court! Can u say ” Class Action” ?

    • it was the mills in this area that dumped the majority of the waste into this landfill. this has nothing to do with politicians, more to do with typical northcoast mentality. the one in Garberville (the ravine) is just as bad. blaming the Government for the mess made by locals is like blaming the government for our other problems, like the mugshots we see.

      • Do you have the documents backing up your theory? …..Peggy does….. It wasn’t “the mills in the area that dumped the majority of the waste into this landfill”

        • who are you claiming is the culprit? someone might want to sample and analyze the well on the property next to the pond between the landfill and the creek. I see the pump house on google earth and it is directly in the path the contaminants leaching toward the creek as claimed here. if there are no VOCs in that well then I would doubt it is making it to the creek as claimed. this area has numerous sources of VOCs.

        • Concerned local

          Exactly, thank you!! It was PG&E not the mills that dumped the majority of toxins into this dump! And Harwood mill is in a completely different direction than the dump. Peggy does have the data to back it up this has been her mission for almost 30 years!

          • transformer oil is not volatile. there are no vocs in transformers, just oil and PCBs. you need to ingest PCBs to be contaminated. REMCO and Retech were/are major sources of VOC waste in the area.

      • Local observer, I’m curious, where is this “ravine” you reference?

        • Ask Kym or Ernie Branscomb about the Garberville dump “ravine”; back in the day, growing up in the area, it was up off Alderpoint Road, just past Cal Fire. The “ravine” looked down into Bear Gulch/Creek. Locals would get rid of god knows what, not just kitchen garbage, but anything and everything…

          It was a dump/shooting range. They did get rid of it (or just buried it), because OJ Johnson wanted to subdivide the area, to what would become the “Meadows” and who would want to buy and build a house next to a dump…

          • My dad regularly terrified me backing up to the edge to toss things in. I was sure we were going to die.

            • Those were the days. Until we got older, our Dad would hold us by the belt loops as we throw stuff off and down into the dump from the edge, so we didn’t fall in. My Mom would never go. There was all kinds of junk down at the bottom. people would shoot down at the junk. I knew kids that would go to the bottom looking through the junk. I never did, to afraid I would get shot…

              • Kind of like Glass Beach in Fort brag along time ago they just dumped the trash right on the beach no need to dump up a hill in a water shed.

  • fuckwalterwhite.com

    Sadly,the Pharaoh’s agenda is more important than health or morals.

  • At one time there were local landfills all over the place.
    Who know what is buried under the dirt!

  • The Laytonville dump used to accept late-night trucks dumping “mystery” loads all through the 80’s. I though everybody knew about it. We guessed it was some mob arrangement. I have seen trucks going in there at night, long after dump hours. Pretty sure it even continued a little bit after the closure? Am I going to be the only one saying this here? Many people talked about it at the time…

  • It makes me sick that people are trying to dispute this information as real. I’ve been around Laytonville for 40 years and I know for a fact . IT’S REAL. Just because you don’t have cancer today doesnt mean you wont get it. That dump has had all kinds of toxic waste put in it ILLEGALY by REMCO and PG&E. Not to mention all the other crap. It really doesn’t matter WHO put it there at this point. What matters is, its there and people are getting sick. Anyone who denies that should go out there and live. Drink the water, fish, have children… And when they are born with birth defects and you die abnormally young it will be on YOU. . Its not just on the rancheria. Its the whole town. Wake up! Thank you Peggy for continuing the fight and thank you Kelly for getting it out there

    • The only people disputing this is the people at the laytonville county water district ! Hi Jim!

      • don’t they know that they could be held liable if this water is tested and is proven to be a carcinogen

      • Your paranoia is showing. Jim provides the facts, nothing else. Do your homework before you start accusing the folks who are trying to help.

        • Just saying if the water district is saying that the water is good and safe to drink and lots of people are getting cancer if the water is contaminated with some type of carcinogen they could be held liable even if they might be ignorant of the fact that it has a carcinogen more studies might be needed there is a syndrome of getting one’s head stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time where people can see

  • Anna Marie Stenberg

    I was arrested there twice getting that dump closed. Peggy I have some pictures we took of the barrels of toxics we found and the ravine. I’ll post them.

    • When some of these tests samples are pulled out of the old dump there should be extra samples sent to be tested at a reputable water testing facility we must be thorough this is something that involves the health of many people and animals not just inside of Laytonville but in the surrounding area who knows how far

  • Moved to Laytonville in 1984 left in 1990. We’d hear stories of the dumping. But nothing done. Shame so many Cancer cases now.

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