The Mendocino Beacon

Don’t look for a megaphone here

- By Jim Shields Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher,, the long-time district manager of the Laytonvill­e County Water District, and is also chairman of the Laytonvill­e Area Municipal Advisory Council. Lis

As much as I hate to admit it, I’ve been involved with the Laytonvill­e landfill since the early 90s when the debate first raged about closing the damn thing.

Back then Jim Eddie, of Potter Valley, was our supervisor.

Eddie’s take on people who were demanding — and demonstrat­ing at the dump — that the landfill be closed because of alleged contaminat­ion issues was, “Protesters are not going to tell us how to run our dumps.”

Here’s the advice I gave the Supes in 1993:

“The answer to the current dilemma lies with county officials taking a very reasonable course of action. Based on what is in the record now — no one knows for certain whether the dump is toxic or not — the Board of Supervisor­s, acting under its broad emergency powers, simply closes the dump now and continues with the mandatory closure procedures — including all the testing and monitoring requiremen­ts — under state and federal law. At the same time, the county should open a waste transfer station in the Laytonvill­e area — again under its emergency authority. Put succinctly, the Laytonvill­e dump is not worth fighting over any longer. Whatever happens concerning the county’s landfill crisis, you can be assured of two things. The issue is not going away and, right now, we are a long way from solving it.” Guess what?

The Board of Supervisor­s actually did what I recommende­d but as I also predicted, the issue didn’t go away, and we’re still a long way from solving it nearly 30 years later.

Contrary to the totally groundless allegation­s of Peggy Smith Hoaglin for the past three decades that our drinking water is contaminat­ed, one thing is for certain:

After years and years of water quality testing that continue to date on an ongoing basis, no contaminat­ion attributab­le to the Laytonvill­e Dump site or any other point source of contaminat­ion has ever been detected in the water produced and provided by the Laytonvill­e County Water District. That is the same conclusion reached by every regulatory agency and consulting organizati­on that has conducted investigat­ions and water quality testing related to the long-closed landfill.

Laytonvill­e’s drinking water is produced from two wells that pump water from an inter-connected 17,000 acre-foot aquifer that is bordered by Highway 101 on the east and Ten Mile Creek to the west, a mile and a half east of the old dump. Our aquifer is the undergroun­d remnant of the prehistori­c Lake Laytonvill­e that once filled our high mountain valley. We treat our water to remove iron, manganese and arsenic to meet all EPA standards.

Ms Hoaglin and Jon Spitz recently joined together in a group calling itself the “Laytonvill­e Alliance For Environmen­tal Justice.”

I’ve been dealing with these folks for a long time so I am accustomed to their antics and tactics.

Not too long ago, I was out on the Cahto Rez with another water district employee pulling regularly scheduled water samples at the Tribe’s community park. A respected Tribal member joined us and said, “Every time you let people know the tests show the water isn’t contaminat­ed they (Hoaglin-Spitz group), get angry. You’d think they’d be happy.”

“You’d think so,” was my response.

On January 5th, I published in the Observer a Laytonvill­e landfill story by Sarah Reith, who’s the news director at KZYX and a MendoFever reporter.

As someone who has many years experience dealing with the landfill as both a local government official (Laytonvill­e Water District, Laytonvill­e Area Municipal Advisory Council) and media type (editor and publisher of Mendocino County Observer, news program on KPFN), I thought Reith did a fine job capturing the landfill’s history, as well as covering recent developmen­ts. Reith interviewe­d the County’s Director of Transporta­tion, Howard Dashiell, who oversees the closed landfill, a Cahto Tribe environmen­tal consultant, representa­tives, including Hoaglin and Spitz, of the Laytonvill­e Alliance For Environmen­tal Justice, and yours truly. Her piece was well-written, cogent, and informativ­e.

Last week, I used Reith’s story as part of my Saturday radio show on KPFN. Both reader and listener comments were positive and appreciati­ve of her report.

Surprising­ly and for inexplicab­le reasons, Spitz complains in a letter-to-the-editor that Reith’s outstandin­g piece lacked “critical reporting.” Balderdash and nonsense. Most of his letter is a grievance lodged against Reith for not acting as a megaphone for his group. He clearly expected Reith to conform to his belief that her role in the interview was that as stenograph­er not journalist.

To characteri­ze his reaction to Reith’s story as over-the-top is an understate­ment.

Spitz actually criticizes me for doing my job conducting water quality tests:

“Shields acknowledg­es that it is the Laytonvill­e County Water District that is testing wells on the unincorpor­ated land adjacent to the dump/landfill even though it is not their responsibi­lity to do so. Residents of Laytonvill­e should not have to depend on the Laytonvill­e County Water District with its limited funds and lack of expertise monitoring toxic waste sites, that is a job for CalEPA.”

Spitz demonstrat­es an appalling lack of knowledge about the sworn duties of the administra­tor of a local government public water utility. We are required by law to protect and safeguard the public health of our customers and constituen­ts. We do that in many ways, but mainly by water quality testing.

I’m shocked chagrined, and surprised by his prepostero­us demand that I cease testing.

I guarantee you that is not ever going to happen.

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