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Three Cannabis Cultivators Fined $209k for River Pollution in California

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Jun 28, 2022   

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Three Cannabis Cultivators Fined $209k for River Pollution in California

Three cannabis cultivators are facing a $209,687 fine for discharging sediment into a northern Californian river.

In a press release on June 24, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board alleged that the three cultivators – Szagora LLC, Toshko Toshkoff, and Rudy Chacon – failed to obtain legal cultivation permits, didn’t respond to an enforcement order requiring them to maintain road access on their properties, and discharged sediment into the Mad River in Humboldt County, an act that could harm river wildlife.

“By failing to obtain a required permit, follow industry standards and adequately respond to an enforcement order, the unlicensed cultivators gained an unfair advantage over legal cultivators,” Claudia E. Villacorta, an assistant executive officer at the Water Quality Control Board, said in a statement. “But more importantly, they put a waterway at risk.”

According to the regional Water Quality Control Board, sediment pollution in rivers can damage the migration, reproduction, and spawning of col-water fish. Excess sediment deposits can smother other aquatic animals, obstruct river currents (leading to floods), and reduce water quality (making it harder for animals to breathe).

A public hearing to consider the complaint and vote on the fine is scheduled to take place before the North Coast Water Board between August 4-5.

Speaking to Analytical Cannabis in December of last year, Dr Greta Wengert explained the dangers illegal cannabis cultivation waste can pose to local wildlife.

“It’s estimated that there are several thousands of these sites on public lands in California,” said Wengert, who acts as the executive director of the Integral Ecology Research Center, a non-profit group dedicated to the research and conservation of California’s wildlife and ecosystems. 

“Nearly all of them are using illegal pesticides, insecticides that are banned in the United States in the European Union. They often are brought in through our southern border, and are highly, highly toxic.”

“At the same time, all the insecticides and other pesticides being used at these sites are contaminating the water, the soil, and the native vegetation,” she added. “It’s destabilizing the soil structure in these very steep slopes where these growers are cultivating and really enhances erosion into water [sources]. The [sites] are often upstream of rural communities that rely on these rivers and streams as a source of drinking water. So that threat is considerable.”

 

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