Toxic Mail

I popped out to check the mail yesterday afternoon and returned with two very interesting letters, both from the Department of Toxic Substances Control, which uses a sun, mountain, and water as its logo. I wasn’t aware that any of these things were toxic, personally, but then again you learn something every day.

california department of toxic substances control letterhead

The first envelope was a “Work Notice.” Apparently, Georgia Pacific (under the supervision of the board) began “winterizing” procedures at the former mill site on the 18th of this month, and starting on Monday trucks will be removing materials from the area.

Winterizing includes putting an interim cap in areas that were excavated (presumably to keep it from filling with water over the rainy season). For dry parts of the excavation, the cap will have a clay liner and the area will be filled with clean soil and “vegetated.” Doesn’t sound very “interim” to me if they’re planting stuff on it, but what do I know. For portions of the excavation which have gotten soggy, a “semi-permeable material” will be covered with crushed rock and concrete (hopefully not contaminated concrete from the site) and then will be covered with the same clay liner/vegetation affair.

Debris removal is what interests me.

Concrete, the hotly contested ash pile, and other soil and debris are being trucked out of the site to one of two landfills–Kettleman Hills if it’s “hazardous”, and Keller Canyon if it’s not. I love how landfilles have names with “Hills” and “Canyon” in them, conjuring up an image of some pristine natural area which is now being filled with our toxic garbage. This is pretty much how we handle toxins in this country–we truck them somewhere else. And we truck them very specifically–the complete truck route, including the route they will take on the mill site, is detailed in this work notice.

Citizens are assured that the Board is on it with the dust control in numerous places. Long time citizens may remember the immense problems we used to have with dust when the mill was open, the thick layer of grainy foulness that settled on everything, and the newer residents, being easily riled yuppies, are probably concerned about their Lexi getting dirty. (Or, perhaps, toxins being borne about town in the dust.) The Mendocino County Air Quality Management District is apparently supervising the air quality and will be able to halt operations if the air quality exceeds their standards. Given the time of year, the air quality in Mendo already exceeds the standards of most reasonable people anyway.

Full documentation of the plan is availble at the library or in the Berkeley Regional Office of the Department of Toxic Substances Control Board. We’re also provided with direct contact information for several staffers on the board, who are presumably being deluged with calls from people named Earthspirit and Wind Dancer as I write. There’s a separate listing for media inquiries, assuming the Advocate ever grows a pair and actually attempts some real journalism.

The second letter was sent out to inform us all that the Department of Toxic Substances Control has officially taken over at the mill site, and they are soliciting public comment. There’s a multi page survey attached, even.

California Department of Toxic Substances Control takes over Georgia Pacific site

In Spanish, also.

Apparently these people are serious about public comment, so I filled it out and sent it back, and I also listed myself as a point of contact when they asked “…planning on talking with community members to learn more about any issues concerning the environmental condition of this site. Would you be willing to talk with us?”

In general, the questions are pretty generic, asking about one’s level of interest in the site, whether or not community groups have been formed, and, interestingly, where I get my news. They probably want to make sure I’m not a dirty Commie.

I’m interested to see how people respond to the community groups question, which goes on to ask if the respondant is a member of any of the said groups and if ou is willing to be contacted about it. Given the penchant that most “community groups” have for drama, I suspect a lot of them will say “no,” simply because they can draw out their attention mongering posters and so forth a little longer. (And because they secretly suspect that they will become victims of assassination.)

Am I concerned about the mill site (which is one of the questions they ask)? Well, yeah, inasmuch as I think uncontrolled and unknown toxins are probably not such a good thing. However, I think it’s the toxic nature of the site, paradoxically, which will save Fort Bragg from utter destruction. I don’t see anything being built there for a very long time, which means that nature may have a chance to take the headlands over, and that a little patch of (toxic) wilderness may appear.

It’s interesting to me that in the last few weeks I have interacted with a number of people who moved here because they say they liked the people and the area. I’m not sure which people they met and liked, because most of us old timers are surly bastards. And I’m also not sure how much there is about the area to like, thanks to people like them who move in and destroy it.

I find myself biting my tongue more and more in daily interactions simply because I’m so floored at how insensitive and ultimately stupid people can be. I’m amazed by the lack of foresight that goes on, and by the illusions that we all collude in maintaining–like the idea that this is a pristine area, that nothing bad ever happens here, that everything is hunky dory and a-ok. I’m in a very strange place right now because I have stepped outside the illusion–I feel like the person who wandered too far off the set and suddenly, tragically, realizes that this is all staged. And yet no one listens to me, because the idea is so preposterous.

Did you know that when California was originally settled, there were trees down to the shore? Those majestic headlands and towering cliffs? Yeah, those are covered in nonnative grasses, because they were once forested with majestic, tall, fearsome trees which were chopped down to build the cute Victorian houses that yuppie assholes buy for too much money, thereby preventing anyone who grew up here from actually buying property.

Who knows. Maybe the mill site is toxic. Maybe living next to it, walking on it, breathing in its air, has made me irredeemably bitter.

Or maybe I just woke up from a long sleep.

[Fort Bragg]
[Georgia Pacific]