No New money for Old mill
by Leila Binder
from the Humboldt Herald
Remember the movie Erin Brockovich? It told the true story of a woman who helped victims sue PG&E for a cancer cluster caused by hexavalent chromium. Evergreen Pulp produced this metal as well.
A draft of a Health risk assessment of Evergreen Pulp dated October 2006, never shared with the public in the two years it continued to operate, states: “The modeled cancer health risk at point of maximum impact (PMI) is above the threshold limits established by the California Air Toxics Hot Spots program….The acute health risk exceeds the North Coast Unified Air Quality Management District threshold because of the estimated acrolein emissions from the pulp dryer….Of the toxic air contaminants, hexavalent chromium contributes the most cancer risk….Acrolein [a pulmonary irritant] is the greatest contributor to chronic and acute risks, accounting for 99.6% of the acute hazard index.”
Apparently, they didn’t actually do tests on the hexavalent chromium itself. This was a projection based on other mills. The report suggested that further tests be done on this and some other contaminants as well. If these tests were done, a follow up report was never filed. So was this dangerous metal (a Proposition 65 listed carcinogen) properly monitored? Did the local air board do anything to ensure that this was done?
And now Evergreen Pulp has left town without a trace, leaving mill workers, some with cancer, without health insurance or pay.
Bob Simpson wants to reopen the mill and build a tissue plant. We don’t have local government agencies that hold companies accountable for their violations, agencies that will make sure the environmental violations under Evergreen, and before that under Stockton Pacific and Louisiana Pacific, are not repeated. When Evergreen Pulp violated environmental laws, they asked the local air board for variances allowing them to continue to pollute and they got them. The aforementioned report states: “The mill is one of the facilities in Humboldt County that is defined as a major source of air pollutants under the Clean Air Act.” Why should Simpson spend good money on a clean plant when local agencies only weakly and belatedly enforce environmental laws? Why not just ask for variances instead?
With the 400 million dollars Simpson has asked for we could create another type of business for Humboldt county using newer clean technologies instead of trying to revamp an old dirty mill built in 1965. Humboldt County needs the jobs that a reopening of the mill would bring. But what good would it do to be employed but get cancer? I feel that the health hazards outlined in this report should be investigated (contaminants are likely still in the groundwater and possibly peoples’ bodies) and the mill should not be reopened.
The health risk assessment of the Evergreen pulp mill may be obtained by anyone at the local air board office.