By Ali Ong Lee
The Humboldt Waste Management Authority (HWMA) receives solid waste and offers a variety of toxic waste and recycling options (often for a fee) to keep materials safely out of the waste stream, but more could be done. Executive Director (E.D.) Jill Duffy is retiring after eight years. Recruitment for a new E.D., to be paid anywhere from $114,500 to $139,212 annually to oversee a $14.4 million budget and staff of 36.5 people, has begun (https://koffassociates.com/executive-director-2/).
In a February 2021 joint letter to HWMA, six local environmental agencies called for HWMA’s Executive Recruitment Subcommittee to prioritize candidates who will provide: “bold leadership from the Humboldt Waste Management Authority to divert organic waste in order to comply with state law, reduce greenhouse gas emission, and to build the resilience of our local economy.”
The 2016 California Senate Bill 1383 aimed to reduce organic waste incrementally by 50% (by year 2020) and by 75% (by year 2025). Additionally, SB1383 aimed to “Rescue for people to eat at least 20% of currently disposed surplus food by 2025.” Organic waste (mostly food, grass, paper, and cardboard) has been found to contribute 20% of the state’s total methane gas emissions and pollute the air.
In the letter, Zero Waste Humboldt, the Northcoast Environmental Center, the Environmental Protection Information Center, the Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities, 350 Humboldt, and Eleventh Hour further stated, “We strongly encourage you to add a community representative with this type of background [‘a leader who is assertive, collaborative, and knowledgeable about waste and climate issues’] to your Executive Recruitment Subcommittee.”
HWMA: A Joint Powers Authority
As mentioned in a July 2020 EcoNews article on obscure local governance with undue influence in our lives, HWMA is one of the local Joint Powers Authorities (JPAs). JPAs are entities comprised of two or more local governments or special districts that sign agreements to combine efforts to efficiently exercise common powers. In this case, HWMA’s powers—to manage solid waste, control toxic waste, and engage recycling as a waste stream reduction measure—are shared among its six entities: Humboldt County and five cities: Arcata, Blue Lake, Eureka, Ferndale, and Rio Dell. In Eureka, HWMA owns, operates, and maintains the following four sites:
- Hawthorne Street Transfer Station: 1059 West Hawthorne Avenue, Eureka, CA
- Eureka Recycling Center : 1059 West Hawthorne Avenue, Eureka, CA
- Household Hazardous Waste Facility: 1059 West Hawthorne Avenue, Eureka, CA
- Cummings Road Sanitary Landfill: 5775 Cummings Road, Eureka, CA
Besides receiving 75,000 tons of solid waste annually at its transfer station, HWMA handles hazardous waste, by appointment, and recycling services. Details can be found at http://www.hwma.net/disposal-services/solid-waste
HWMA does not accept “ammunition, explosives, pharmaceuticals, radioactive waste, biological waste, or medical waste” (http://www.hwma.net/facilities/hazardous-waste-facility). Furthermore, HWMA does not provide curbside collection services. Those are provided by Recology (Arcata, Eel River, Humboldt), Blue Lake Garbage, Humboldt Sanitation, and Tom’s Trash. The majority of Humboldt’s trash is then trucked to the Dry Creek Landfill in Medford, OR, approximately 200 miles north, or to Solid Waste of Willits, in Willits, CA, approximately 135 miles south of Eureka.
The North Coast Journal’s Iridian Casarez offers a November 21, 2019 overview on “Recycling’s New Reality” in Humboldt: https://m.northcoastjournal.com/humboldt/recyclings-new-reality/Content?oid=15732124. What may be of particular interest is the graphic “Processing Recycling in Humboldt,” by Jonathan Webster.
An Offer to Collaborate
Zero Waste Humboldt (ZWH), the only local organization solely specializing in waste reduction solutions “has had a standing offer to assist Humboldt Waste Management Authority with the challenges of complying with California’s 46 waste-related laws passed in the past five years,” reported ZWH’s President Maggie Gainer. “We look forward to working closely with HWMA to deal with the growing problems of food waste, plastics, and the urgent need to develop local end-use recycling markets for the benefits of a circular economy in our region.”
Cummings Landfill, a Superfund Site
Before the current practice of trucking solid waste out of our region, HWMA’s previous entity City Garbage of Eureka burned garbage at the 33-acre Cummings Road Landfill until 1969. In 1975, the subsequent entity NorCal Garbage, Inc. continued to accept solid waste (including asbestos) at Cummings Road. Eventually, NorCal Garbage became Recology; it began the closing process at the Cummings landfill, from 2001 until 2012, which included years of controversy regarding its groundwater and geology. Anderson Dragline, Inc., of Gridley, CA, completed Phase 1. In 2014, D&E Construction of Visalia, CA capped the site with a geosynthetic material.
The Environmental Protection Agency named Cummings a superfund site. In 2013, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (NCRWQCB) held both HWMA and Recology-Humboldt responsible for a Clean Up and Abatement Order. As of 2017, the Cummings site was officially closed but it is still monitored.
HWMA Oversight by the Local Enforcement Agency
In addition to California’s EPA, HWMA is overseen by the Humboldt County Division of Environmental Health which,in turn,is overseen by the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, also known as CalRecycle.
HWMA Board of Directors
There are six members, with alternates for each, totaling 12; two alternates have yet to be named.
- County of Humboldt: Rex Bohn, email@example.com
- County of Humboldt Alternate: Steve Madrone, firstname.lastname@example.org
- City of Arcata: Sofia Pereira, email@example.com
- City of Arcata Alternate: Sarah Schaefer, firstname.lastname@example.org
- City of Blue Lake: Elaine Hogan, email@example.com
- City of Blue Lake Alternate: Summer Daugherty, firstname.lastname@example.org
- City of Eureka: Leslie Castellano, email@example.com
- City of Eureka Alternate: (not yet named)
- City of Ferndale: Robin Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org
- City of Ferndale Alternate: Stephen Avis, ferndale1057Wgmail.com
- City of Rio Dell: Frank Wilson, email@example.com
- City of Rio Dell Alternate: (not yet named)
HWMA Board Meetings
During COVID-19, HWMA offers teleconferencing via the Zoom platform.
Meeting Dates & Agendas are listed at http://www.hwma.net/about/board-calendar-and-agendas
WMA Contact Information
1059 West Hawthorne Avenue
Eureka, CA 95501
707-441-2005 household & small business hazardous waste
707-268-8030 recycling & waste reduction
California Environmental Protection Agency
Statewide Water Quality Control Plans for Trash
California State Water Resources Control Board