1.16.2008

ER - Baykeeper sidesteps Water Board procedures

The predatory litigious "Baykeeper" is at it again... and this time they got caught...

Baykeeper sidesteps Water Board procedures

The environmental group founded in 2004 who said its purpose was to safeguard Humboldt Bay’s water and wildlife sidestepped regulatory agency procedures when it conducted a chemical dye test last week on Eureka’s Waterfront.

The Eureka Reporter has learned that Humboldt Baykeeper did not provide the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board the requested paperwork the agency needed to determine if a permit was necessary to conduct a fluorescent tracer test on the Balloon Track property.

Humboldt Baykeeper Program Director Pete Nichols confirmed the group had conducted testing on the Balloon Track on Thursday to measure water flowing off of the property into a culvert, which he said appears to be connected to the city of Eureka’s storm drain system.

Humboldt Baykeeper didn’t comment on why it didn’t provide the Regional Water Board with the information it asked for.

But Nichols said the testing was done as part of ongoing litigation against the property owner Security National alleging, among other claims, the former railroad yard property is discharging toxic metals in violation of the Water Quality Act.

Nichols indicated in a written statement that the discharge from the site likely amounts to thousands of gallons of water per day that flows into the city’s storm drain, which empties into Humboldt Bay.

“This discharge is particularly concerning because it comes from the portion of the Balloon Track where the railroad used to dump its used motor oil and other chemical wastes into the ground,” Nichols stated.

But Regional Water Board officials indicated last week they told Baykeeper it needed to provide more information as to dye concentrations and where it was being applied for the testing.

Robert Klamt, the Regional Water Board’s interim executive director, said those questions will have to be answered after the fact.

“Our hope is that their use of dye was within the recommended concentrations,” Klamt said.

Although he said the Regional Water Board staff is familiar with the commonly used dye, Klamt said he would like to be able to have more time to review requests for its use ahead of time.

Dave Evans, a supervising engineer with the Regional Water Board who oversees the ongoing cleanup on the property, said he wasn’t anticipating any water-quality related problems as a result of the 20-30 drops he said Humboldt Baykeeper indicated verbally it intended to use.

But Evans said the agency had not received a requested written description from Baykeeper on the specific testing to make a determination whether a permit would be required or if a waiver could be granted.

“We didn’t know what the purpose was because they didn’t submit the requested information,” Evans said.

Nichols stated only one drop of the non-toxic, biodegradable fluorescent dye was used by its consultants to trace the discharge.

An SHN Consulting Engineers & Geologists employee representing SN’s Marina Center project was among the more than 20 people who were present for the testing and observed the approximately one liter dye solution being poured into the water.

Brian Morrissey, senior vice president for Security National, said it is ironic that Baykeeper chose to ignore the Regional Water Board and didn’t obtain a required permit, which he said was the basis for the environmental group’s lawsuit against SN.

With regard to the lawsuit, Morrissey said the company has always done its best to comply with the Regional Water Board’s requests, which the agency’s officials said it was doing.

“I would expect that Baykeeper would do the same,” Morrissey said.

Morrissey said SN is continuing to counter Baykeeper claims regarding Union Pacific’s previous activity on the Balloon Track.

“While the courts have dismissed most of their claims, we are continuing to go through the discovery process for the few that remain,” Morrissey said.

In May 2007, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White ruled to dismiss eight of the 11 Baykeeper’s charges in the lawsuit against Union Pacific and SN.

The remaining three claims from the lawsuit filed March last year, allege violations of the Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and Clean Water Act, as well as a failure of the land owner to apply for a National Pollution Discharge Elimination permit for storm water discharge.

An environmental impact report as part of SN’s Marina Center project is expected to be released this spring.

“Anything we can contribute to that, we will,” Nichols said.

(The Eureka Reporter is a member of the Security National family of entities
owned by Rob and Cherie Arkley.)

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