Humboldt Dump committee to be established

The controversy surrounding the old Humboldt Road Burn Dump, the site off Highway 32 near Bruce Road that for years served as the regional refuse collector, continues to smolder, as landowners push to develop the property and neighbors fight to stop them. The landowners say they have a right to develop because they have paid various fees over the years, including the purchase of sewer rights. The neighbors counter that any development will kick up lead-laden dust and endanger children, including those at nearby Hank Marsh Junior High.

On Dec. 13, property owners, city staff members and concerned citizens—23 people in all—traveled to Sacramento to meet with state officials. The state says the site must be cleaned, that current fencing to keep visitors off the land is not enough and that capping the contaminated acreage, a plan offered by the city years ago, is sufficient.

Phil Woodward of the Regional Water Quality Control Board, the lead agency on the matter, reportedly said at the Dec. 13 meeting that dust is not a problem and that developers may build on property directly adjacent to the contaminated site. Those positions brought howls of protest from the neighbors.

To bring the factions together, City Manager Tom Lando has suggested the interested parties form a 10- to 15-member committee that would report back to the city within six months. The committee is expected to come up with a remedial cleanup plan that pleases everyone, including the state.

At this week’s council meeting, Julie Nasr, one of the protesting neighbors, suggested a representative of the school district be included on the committee. Nasr said that during the cleanup as many as 244 truck crossings per day will take place across Bruce Road, and students at the junior high will become “sensitive receptors” of the dust.

“The school district needs to be involved,” she said.

This led Councilmember Coleen Jarvis to ask aloud if the district will take the matter “seriously.”

“It’s the parents who’ve raised the questions,” she said.

Lando assured Jarvis the district would take its role seriously.

"Yes," he said, "they want to be able to answer the parents’ questions."