Nathan Rushton, Eureka Reporter

Feb. 20, 2008


EUREKA - To avoid further litigation, Simpson Timber Co. has struck a deal with two environmental groups to remove tons fo sediment laden with the toxic compound dioxin from a former mill site at the foot of Del Norte Street in Eureka.

The settlement agreement stems from a lawsuit filed in 2006 under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act against Simpson Timber by Eureka-based Humboldt Baykeeper and Californians for Alternatives to Toxics.

Tests of the soil where plywood was apparently sprayed in the 1960s with the now-banned wood preservative pentachlorophenol found dioxin at levels at tens of thousands of times higher than thresholds established by the Environmental Protection Agency, according to the environmental groups.

Humboldt Baykeeper director Pete Nichols said in a news release that the settlement is a pivotal step in addressing and fixing the dioxin problem in and around Humboldt Bay.

“The work required under this agreement will help protect those who fish from this public pier and throughout the bay, in addition to the fish and other inhabitants of the Bay,” Nichols said.

According to the consent decree document, Simpson Timber denies all of the allegations raised by the environmental groups in the original lawsuit of violations and that the conditions posed an “imminent or substantial endangerment” to people or the environment.

Simpson Timber Co.’s Dave McEntee, vice president of operational services and external affairs, said in a phone interview Wednesday that the company has been actively working with the property owner and the Regional Water Board for years to identify and deal with contaminants at the site.

“The agreement is simply a continuation of that effort to make sure that site is cleaned and managed,” McEntee said.

Although he said the final numbers could increase or decrease based on soil tests, McEntee said approximately 2,500 cubic yards of soil will be removed and hauled to an appropriate disposal site.

Although the permits have yet to be obtained, McEntee said the company hopes the work will completed by the end of summer next year.

As part of the settlement agreement, the company also must restore the ditch as a functioning wetland and monitor it to ensure that residual below ground contamination doesn’t leave the site.

A Humboldt Bay Wetlands Restoration Fund will be established at the Humboldt Area Foundation for projects designed to offset environmental damage caused as a result of the contamination.

During the 1960s, the groups said pentachlorophenol was used at approximately 12 lumber mills around Humboldt Bay.

As a watchdogs for toxic substances, CATs Executive Director Patty Clary of said her group has mapped many of the old mill sites, most of which she said don’t exist anymore.

“Our goal is to prevent further degradation of the bay by dioxin and see it restored to its former health and vitality,” Clary said.

The State Water Resources Control Board, in surprise move in the final days of a several-year process, listed Humboldt Bay as “impaired” for the cancer-causing dioxin compound in 2006 citing fish and shellfish samples that tested positive for dioxin that Humboldt Baykeeper asked to be re-evaluated.

The full text of the agreement can be viewed on CATs’ Web site at: