County staff has responded to concerns about potential onsite wastewater system impacts to impaired watersheds in the Clam/Moonstone Beach area, saying a mix of public outreach and monitoring will address them.


The impacts relate to elevated fecal coliform levels at Luffenholtz Beach, Clam Beach, Trinidad State Beach and Moonstone Beach, which were listed as impaired in 2013. Other watercourses, including Little River, Widow White Creek, Strawberry Creek, Campbell Creek and Jolly Giant Creek were added to the impaired list in 2015. 


Whether the areas added later will be adequately addressed was discussed during the Nov. 7 Board of Supervisors meeting. Supervisors considered the county’s Local Agency Management Program (LAMP), which outlines how state onsite treatment standards will be complied with.


During the discussion, Supervisor Mike Wilson noted that Humboldt Baykeeper has commented on the county program’s lack of specific inclusion of the water bodies added in 2015. 


State standards cite 600-foot wastewater system setbacks from impaired water bodies but there’s some leeway. Carolyn Hawkins of the county’s Department of Environmental Health said the county proposes to monitor feeder streams – such as those from the 2015 list – instead of requiring the setbacks.


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Humboldt Baykeeper warns of chemical runoff on former mill sites


The Arcata-based soil company Royal Gold LLC recently settled a federal civil lawsuit filed by Humboldt Baykeeper that alleged the company allowed harmful chemicals at its Glendale soil mixing facility to contaminate the Mad River and the nearby Mill Creek.


The company agreed to make a variety of infrastructure changes to prevent contaminated runoff from entering soil and groundwater.



Here in Humboldt, we have front row seats for climate change. Sea level rise in one direction. Stronger and more frequent wildfires in the other. Responses are all over the spectrum from President Trump withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord to Governor Brown saying “California is all-in on de-carbonizing our economy.”  In this installment of KHUM In Depth, we talk with experts and local community members who are working to assess how Humboldt will be affected by climate change and what we could and should be doing about it now.


We talk with environmental engineer, former Harbor District Commissioner and current County Supervisor Mike Wilson as well as Humboldt Baykeeper’s Jennifer Kalt about challenges we face along the populated coast when it comes to sea level rise.  Janet Upton of Cal Fire tells us from her Sacramento office how hotter, dryer summers have changed the wildfire landscape in California and what the state is doing to address these changes.  Climate Vulnerability Assessment expert and lecturer at Humboldt State University, Michael Furniss, speaks about steps we are taking on the local and state level to curb carbon emissions.  We also talk with Katie Gurin from our local chapter of 350.org about the organization’s focus in combating climate related issues in our community. 



Heal the Bay, an environmental nonprofit, recently issued its annual report card for bacterial pollution at more than 400 beaches along the Pacific Coast.


During the dry days of summer last year, the vast majority of California beaches had excellent grades.


But winter was a different story. As record rainfall swept through the state’s cityscapes and pushed billions of gallons of runoff out to sea, water quality plummeted.


“It’s indicative of a water mismanagement issue in California,” she said. “If we were doing a better job of rethinking that runoff we could turn it from a nuisance into a resource.”


Humboldt County’s Clam Beach, which is fed by two creeks, was named California’s most polluted beach by Heal the Bay.


The problem there has vexed local environmentalists who cite a panoply of possible causes: bird poop, campground toilets, old septic systems, livestock and more.


“There’s no shortage of theories,” said Jennifer Kalt, the director of Humboldt Baykeeper, an environmental group.


Better understood is that bacterial pollution rises sharply immediately after a rain, then typically goes right back to normal. That’s why health experts recommend beachgoers wait three days to enter the ocean after a storm.


“I think oftentimes people think kids just get diarrhea or stomach aches for other reasons,” Ms. Kalt said. “But studies have shown that it’s often correlated with rainfall. If it rains one day and then the next day it’s sunny, people don’t really give it much thought.”


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