"We're All Us"

Ben Schill after Last Night’s Community Meeting

When communities gather together to finally take action on a sore subject, the mood is often angry and aggressive. But, when between 40 and 50 community members assembled last night for a discussion about the effect, both physical and social, of diesel on our environment, the mood was quiet, thoughtful, and inclusive. “We’re all us,” Jonelle Friedkin-Monschke, long time resident explained in an effort to describe her belief that indoor/outdoor or non growers, all were part of our neighborhood. The desire seemed to be to find ways to encourage local diesel growers and suppliers of diesel to move away from harmful environmental practices to safer and ultimately solar options. (Though there was acknowledgment that growing in whatever form, if done in large amounts, was going to put a strain on the local watersheds as crucial aquifers are drained to support marijuana gardens.) Local attorney Herb Schwartz mirrored the general consensus with these words, “I don’t think a punitive approach is the right way to think about this.”

The meeting contained both of the Second District Supervisor candidates, Clif Clendenen and Estelle Fennell, noted local activists such as Sue Maloney and Man Who Walks in the Woods, as well as the highly respected employee, Karl Terrell, of local business and diesel distributer, Renner Petroleum. KMUD was also there with plans to discuss the meeting this morning on a call-in talk show between 7 and 9 am. There were other members of the media there also including Cristina Bauss, a local reporter and blogger and there was a former LA Times reporter there as well in the area writing a book dealing with marijuana.

Community members related experiences with diesel grows. Ben Schill, well known local history and nature buff, spoke of how 20 years ago a 200 gallon diesel tank flushed into a creek upstream from his home. “I can still see the damage that was done.” According Schill, some of the results were Alder trees dieing along the creek. Shill said he is just now seeing a restoration of the area.

Man Who Walks in the Woods held the room captive as he related the habits of the Great Horned Owl andGreat Horned Owl (Photo from Wikipedia) how this magnificent bird’s population has dwindled over the years locally. The owl lives on ridges and semi open areas. There, they listen for the rustle of mice or other prey in the grass. However, according to Woods, when generators started being increasingly common in the hills, the owl population crashed. “How is an owl going to hear a mouse over the sound of a generator?”

Many solutions to the diesel problem were proffered. Some focused on educating the consumer about the superior qualities and “eco groovy” nature of the outdoor varieties of marijuana. Others on informing the grower on the harmful effects of indoor diesel grows. Suggestions ranged from small one on one friendly talks with indoor growers to music festivals with an outdoor marijuana theme and booths featuring information on how to make indoor grows safer and how to grow outside more profitably.

One local solution drew applause from the crowd after Karl Terrell, Renner Petroleum employee addressed the group. He spoke of “the 60 years we try to do the right thing” at Renner. He spoke of the lack of legislation to force diesel tank manufacturers to make only the safer double wall tanks and suggested the group work to change the law but then, he added that, after to listening to the community’s concerns, he was going to ” recommend to the owner to stop selling single wall tanks” even if this damaged their business. “We don’t want to hurt the environment.”

A sign up sheet was available to volunteer for varying groups working toward a solution.



  • I thought about titling Ben’s photo, Ben-ediction–we were so much a gathering of the community’s elders with only a few younger faces and Ben, as is so often the case, came across as so wise.

    And that is not my owl photo; it is from the wikipedia free media.

  • Hey I know that guy.

  • Wise, or wise guy?

  • I’ve been thinking about my slow reaction to the generator explosion I talked about at the meeting. Why was I so reluctant to discuss it with my neighbors? Then I remembered that at the time I thought of the explosion as a potential disaster prevented by wet weather. I was relieved that there was no fire beyond the trees in the vicinity of the generator and I felt that most of the diesel had burned in the fire. It took at least a year to see plants below the spill begin to decline and die off. So long that I thought at first that some kind of disease had set in rather than suspecting the spill. It was a slow death for the older alders and one precious yew. Some of the younger trees along the creek banks also died and the area seemed transformed, Now, after nearly twenty years, things are much improved. I wonder what upper Hacker Creek will look like in one or two years? The results I saw could have been from as little as 100 gallons of diesel. In retrospect, I should have asked for a Ranch meeting to discuss the situation but I did not want to make waves. I figured they had learned their lesson. Probably not. I do intend to go to the next meeting. Something remarkable may come of this.

  • Ben, If you think of it remind me and I will ask if I can hike Hacker Creek again in a year and see if there is any evidence of problems. That would be an interesting experiment.

  • Guerilla in the midst

    The draining of aquifers is a good reason for dirt growers who have taken their hillside terra-culture indoors to realize hydroponic cultivation uses less water than otherwise if done properly. The use of aerobic bacteria cultured in a filter bag of high surface area substrate will keep a large body of water healthy for many weeks. Couple this technique with an automatic nutrient doser and the usable life of the water is extended to the entire crop cycle. This can be done outdoors with a slightly higher evaporation rate. The only drawback is the need to hide the (low) heat signature of the massive body of water. Another drawback is the need for a certain level of horticultural sophistication, something which I think has been lost in this area over the years.

    “All natural” is not always best for the environment. Low-tech farming techniques inevitably use more water and cause more fertilizer runoff.

    What are the effects of “bio-diesel” if spilled into a stream in comparison to petroleum diesel? I picture a gunked up stream, but not this massive tree death associated with the acute toxicity of petroleum diesel.

  • As a flower gardener, I use all natural fertilizers but I’ve wondered about the possible harm they might cause to the environment. I’m afraid my level of horticultural sophistication isn’t very high.

  • Guerrilla in the midst

    I am not an expert on this subject of organic vs. inorganic fertilizer and pollution. I do know some things about it.

    Phosphorus is the main issue. Phosphorus is normally scarce in natural bodies of water. This is a good thing as algae cannot take over in the absence of phosphorus. As far as pollution is concerned, it is not widely discussed that organic fertilizers primarily contain water-soluble phosphorus whereas inorganic fertilizers contain insoluble phosphorus. One may notice that it is advised to vigorously shake inorganic liquid fertilizers before application but it is not stated that this is because of phosphorus solubility. Insoluble phosphorus readily binds to soil particles and unless the soil itself erodes into natural waterways, there is little chance of contributing to pollution due to the fertilizer escaping. In contrast, organic sources of phosphorus readily combine with water and may enter natural waterways without significant soil erosion.

    This is not to say that people who use inorganic phosphorus fertilizers cannot pollute or that organic fertilizers will always pollute. Vegetation produced by gardening, unless properly disposed of, can (when wet) leach soluble phosphorus. The most common pollution sources in this regard are hastily discarded lawn clippings and tree leaves. Although innocent in appearance, piles of tree leaves on cement driveways are a direct source of fertilizer runoff. Leaves allowed to float into gutters are an even worse source of pollution.

    Simply adding too much fertilizer is a problem with respect to home gardening pollution. Soil should be tested for its phosphorus content before any additional fertilizer is applied. If in doubt, it is always better to add too little fertilizer, both for plants and the environment.

    Nitrogen, whether applied organically or inorganically, is readily converted to nitrates in soil. Well-draining soils can potentially leach nitrates into groundwater from over-watering or heavy rain. It is well known that high nitrate concentration in drinking water has many adverse health effects, especially on babies. It is hard to test the N content in soil for application purposes in any reliable way. Therefore, it is best to simply not overdo it with nitrogen application. Some gardeners over-fertilize with nitrogen on purpose in order to stop plants from flowering. From a environmental perspective, it is better not to do this.

    There is a matter of scale when talking about water usage and fertilizer runoff. Flower gardens are not immune to contributing to eutrophication, but are normally surrounded by enough of a buffer zone to absorb any pollution. The exception is flower gardens immediately bordered by cement or other man-made material where the pollution runs freely.

    Keeping the nutrients used in a garden within the garden may not have a big effect on pollution as individual gardens are not a large pollution source. Collectively, individual gardens are a significant source of pollution but more serious causes of drinking water nitrate pollution are exposed manure and malfunctioning septic systems.

    Due to the scale of fertilizer use, Cannabis cultivation can become a major contributor to fertilizer runoff especially when organic fertilizers are used during flowering. This practice is becoming increasingly common. Most guerrilla cultivation is done in close proximity to natural waterways which can directly introduce soluble phosphorus to the broader ecosystem. Many times harvested plants are processed in the field and the remaining phosphorus-laden leaves are left behind at the worst possible time which is right before rainy season. Plants that begin to flower before the desired time of year are routinely “re-vegged” which introduces high levels of nitrogen into the environment. The surrounding dirt and living vegetation may clean up this mess for the grower or it may not.

    This is not to say that indoor soil cultivation yields any less pollutants as it is common practice to throw out partially collapsed soil after a harvest. Where this soil is discarded determines if it causes fertilizer pollution or not. With in-home Cannabis production, larger-scale gardeners typically divert water runoff directly into gutters to avoid causing water damage to the house. This is good for not getting sued, not so good for wildlife.

    The good news is Cannabis cultivation is so small-scale in comparison to food cultivation that the pollution is minor in comparison. The bad news is Cannabis is cultivated in vulnerable habitats where food production would never be allowed. There are ways to avoid problems such as composting leftover leaf material, testing soil, carefully applying fertilizers, using precise amounts of water, only planting where there is a buffer zone of vegetation and planting well out of the way of streams. Some of this is practiced diligently by farmers already. Due to the prohibited status of Cannabis, assessing how many reckless farmers there are is impossible.

  • First, I have to say that for not an expert you impressed me! Second, I quickly ran out and changed my water which I knew had done its job but I was just going to “sit for a few more minutes” which would have probably turned into 15 minutes. Thirdly, I’m going to stop feeling guilty for under fertilizing my garden. At least, I’m probably not contributing phosphorus and nitrogen to the beautiful area around me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *