Humboldt Baykeeper should come clean about the Marina Centerby Randy Gans
For many years, Humboldt Baykeeper has been saying that the Balloon Track should be cleaned up. But now that the cleanup is about to happen, Baykeeper is demanding that the Balloon Track should not be cleaned up until more unspecified work is done at some unspecified time in the future. Why has Baykeeper suddenly changed its tune?
Last week in this column, Baykeeper wrote that it wanted to “clear the air” about its opposition to the cleanup. We think that’s a step in the right direction, but Baykeeper has not gone far enough.
Baykeeper may have given the impression that it opposes the cleanup because of the goodness of its heart, but Internal Revenue Service records show that some unidentified people have paid Humboldt Baykeeper nearly $2 million over the past few years, and that Baykeeper has paid lawyers and experts hundreds of thousands of dollars. This big money did not come from member dues, which in 2008 were only $16,000 — not enough to pay even the salary of Pete Nichols.
Humboldt Baykeeper and its parent organization, known as Ecological Rights Foundation, should come clean. The public is entitled to know who is paying for Baykeeper’s fight, and whether those people just happen to be wealthy businesses who don’t want any competition from the Marina Center.
Baykeeper argues that “Security National is attempting to slip through a sham cleanup.” But when Baykeeper is pressed about what is wrong with the cleanup, the group has only vague responses.
The main objection, according to Baykeeper, is that the property has not been “fully characterized.” But the proposed cleanup is an interim cleanup, which is a cleanup done before all relevant data has been collected and before decisions have been made on final cleanup plans. Interim cleanups are performed when there is an obvious issue that can be resolved without waiting until the end of a long process. Here, dioxin has been found in ditch sediments. CUE VI will have those ditch sediments excavated, removed from the property, and properly disposed of. How can anyone object to that?
Someone may wonder how CUE VI knows when to stop digging. In this kind of excavation, the contractor starts by digging out a reasonable amount. In this case, the initial excavation areas were identified in the consultant’s proposal to the Regional Water Quality Control Board, and were approved.
When the initial excavation is complete, the consultant takes samples from the excavated area, has those analyzed by a laboratory, and submits the results to the Regional Board for discussion on whether more dirt should be excavated. The excavation is complete only when the confirmation samples are satisfactory to the Regional Board.
Baykeeper sometimes takes credit for the cleanup of the Simpson Mill site at the foot of Del Norte Street. That site was used for penta treatment, and penta contains dioxin. The levels of dioxin at that site were many, many thousands of times higher than those at the Balloon Track, which was never used for penta treatment.
Baykeeper likes to talk about how many samples were taken at the Simpson site. But it does not talk about the levels of dioxin at the two sites. At the Balloon Track, CUE VI will be excavating soils with relatively low levels of dioxin. At the Simpson site, soils containing higher levels of dioxins will be capped and left in place with Baykeeper’s blessing.
In the end, what counts is the quality of the cleanup. The cleanup of the Balloon Track goes beyond what is required by regulatory agencies and what has been accomplished at other sites.
If the cleanup plan is so bad, why hasn’t Baykeeper brought in one of its experts to explain what is wrong with it? Baykeeper has hired many experts for the Balloon Track litigation. Not one of these experts has appeared before the City Council, and not one of these experts submitted any report about the cleanup to the Regional Board. This lack of technical expertise may explain why Baykeeper’s arguments are so vague.
Baykeeper had an opportunity to convince the Regional Board that the cleanup was inadequate, but the only technical objections Baykeeper made to the proposed cleanup were in a letter from Baykeeper’s lawyer.
Not surprisingly, the Regional Board was not persuaded by any of Baykeeper’s objections. In mid-October, the Regional Board concluded that the cleanup should be implemented as proposed.
Humboldt Baykeeper should therefore come clean about what is really going on. Like anyone else, it is entitled to have its opinion about whether the Marina Center is good for the community. But if it is opposing cleanup because opponents of the Marina Center will do anything to delay that project, and if Baykeeper is receiving large amounts of money from project opponents, Baykeeper should not be hiding that information. The public has a right to know.Randy Gans, a vice president of Security National Properties, makes money way faster than Pete Nichols can extort it.