Monday, April 11, 2016

Looks Can Be Deceiving

You know how much we love going for long walks at the marsh. Its history is pretty interesting, and much has been done to make it both a sanctuary for wildlife and an innovative sewage treatment plant. We've always appreciated Arcata's attempt to balance the effects of the human population and the resources for maintaining a healthy habitat for other species. It always looked good to us out there, and I have photographed its beauty so often.

Then we read this in the local newspaper back in February:
"Chemical leftovers from Humboldt County’s once booming timber industry could create costly delays for two Arcata projects near its marsh and wildlife sanctuary.
One project seeks to construct a dog park at the old Little Lake Industries lumber mill site on South I Street. The other would reuse dredged soils from the bay to create a buffer to protect city properties from sea level rise.
However, recent tests of Humboldt Bay sediment along the marsh found a “hot spot” of harmful compounds known as dioxins, according to Humboldt Baykeeper Director Jennifer Kalt. Dioxins are found in a wood preservative once used by many of the nearly 100 mill sites near Humboldt Bay, which had either spilled or had been dumped into the bay over the decades, Kalt said.
“It was so toxic that it was restricted in the late 1980s,” Kalt said. “It’s only allowed now to be used on power poles.”
The dioxin levels found in the city’s tests in July 2015 were nearly 10 times the concentration deemed safe for exposure.
Due to the historic lumber mill activity along the bay, Arcata Environmental Services Director Mark Andre said it’s too early to determine the source of the dioxins. The city has hired an environmental consulting agency to find the sources and assess their impacts before proceeding with any of the projects, Andre said.
“There were many mills that drained toward where we did the sampling,” he said. “There were probably a dozen potential historic sources of dioxin that could have been a contributing factor. I’m not surprised that there is some level of dioxins found in the bay mud there.”
So, when we look out at this beautiful view, the mudflats of the bay, we now know that what we may be looking at is highly toxic, environmental persistent organic pollutants.

We still love it out there, even though looks can be deceiving. Sure hope the wildlife can manage these dioxins. 


  1. So heart paining; feel like humans are destroying the planet faster than ever. Helps when I see a post on our local Union Bay Watch blog about ducks' behavior in the spring. It is worth reading.

  2. We know that the life in the bay cannot tolerate the stuff. It is slowly working its way up the food chain. Maybe some little microscopic critters can evolve quickly enough to tolerate it, but higher order animals can't evolve tolerance that quickly.
    Near where I live, there's a reservoir made by flooding several towns (the bastards wouldn't get away with that these days) to supply water for Boston halfway across the state. Fishing is allowed, but like the fish in so many of our waterways, pregnant women and children aren't supposed to eat the fish due to the presence of heavy metals (mostly from tanneries, I believe) in the water.

  3. isabelita-- It's true, humans are destroying the planet faster than ever. I don't see much slowing down either. I love reading about ducks in spring. Thank you!

    CCorax-- I am often reminded of a book I read years ago called The World Without Us. It took a look at different environments across the globe and tried to describe how long it would take for the planet to be restored if humans simply vanished quickly. I was looking around on the internet the other day and came across the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. Not a bad idea.

  4. Oh the shame of what we do to our planet. Even when we know better.

  5. This is so sad. We don't deserve this planet. We just find way after way to ruin it. Sigh.

  6. NCmountainwoman-- It is a sad tale, repeated over and over and over.

    Arkansas Patti-- It is a tragic thing that we do to our one and only planet.

  7. shit. shoot. well, at least they know somewhat what they are dealing with. Now, to find out if there is a current culprit or if this is old stuff. Wow. I just never would have imagined.

  8. Tara-- It's old stuff. Dioxins were outlawed in the 1980s. It just takes a long, long while for it to dissipate.

  9. This is beautiful! Humans relegated to a tiny branch in the tree of life:

  10. We have something similar here in Rome. A General Electric plant manufactured transformers here in a large facility. They used polychlorinated biphenyls as a coolant in the transformers. The PCBs leaked, leached into the ground water and from there into nearby streams, and then into the Coosa River. The plant closed almost 40 years ago, but a neighbor works for a company that is involved in some kind of remediation at the plant. The PCBs concentrate in the river sediment, where it contaminates fish, especially bottom-feeders like catfish and carp. In the past, a lot of people supplemented their groceries with fish like these from the river, but there are fish consumption warnings now. Apparently it has been argued that trying to get rid of the contaminated sediment would cause more problems by stirring it up and releasing it directly into the river water.

  11. CCorax-- I love that new tree! Thank you for sharing the link.

    Mark-- It's an incredible and daunting task cleaning up the mess that huge industries left behind. It goes on for years and years and years.

  12. That really does SUCK! So sorry to hear it.

  13. Pat-- What we have done to our beautiful planet sucks in every way. Sigh.

    1. We have clearly mucked things up for ourselves. After I read this I went to the EPA Superfund site and pretty much ruined my day.