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It is with some alarm that I read that our drinking water (for 88,000 Humboldt County residents) is now at risk because a poorly thought out "heavy industrial" zone ended up in the updated Humboldt County General Plan (NCJ Daily, Jan. 18). The area in question is located on the north shore of the Mad River in Glendale, within 2,000 feet of the water intake facilities that provide many of us water from Ruth Lake.

It seems absurd that this zone was changed to "heavy industrial" in the plan, so close to the county water supply intake. On Jan. 11, the general manager of the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District warned the county that approving a proposed site-zoning change from "ag-general" to "resource-related industrial" opens the door to potentially widespread drinking water impacts from any accidental hazardous material releases. He said, "There may be no bigger issue brought before this Planning Commission this year ... that deals with health and safety and welfare, than protecting ... the source water for the public drinking water system."

In response, the planning commission merely pointed to the General Plan's "heavy-industrial" designation, stated the site zoning had to be consistent with it, and proceeded to OK it with a majority vote.

Isn't government supposed to ensure that our water is OK? With all the lead poisoning in the national news, you would think cool heads would prevail and make sure our county water supply is safe, no matter what! I am so glad that the head of the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District was trying to keep us safe but I am also stunned that a public health concern of this magnitude was greeted by a rubber stamp from the county planning commission.

Apparently, there are currently 30,000 gallons of diesel fuel stored there now. In an earthquake, would we have diesel coming out of what remains of our taps? I don't know about you, but this seems irresponsible in the extreme to me. Rather than approving this change, the planning commission could have found a way to create mitigations for this and any other industrial waste risks on the site. 

The planning commission answers to the county board of supervisors. I urge the supervisors to direct planning staff to come up with creative ways to solve this problem and ensure the safety of our water supply now and in the future. If the General Plan has a mistake, there must be a way to fix it.

Margaret Draper, Arcata

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