Report from the Badlands

Paved with the Best Intentions

I was shocked the other day when I opened a specially delivered letter from county officials that said if we don’t stop plans for a storage pond for our sewage effluent, they’re going to sue the community of Orange Acres.

It turns out that our city council, just like Hollister’s, voted to approve the construction of the new sewage storage pond without environmental studies. Unlike Hollister’s, which is for domestic sewage, ours will also double as a settling pond for the mercury-laden acid drainage that pours out of the old New Idria Mercury Mine.

I missed the meeting because it was done in closed session – away from the prying ears of the public.

As many of you know, and what EPA officials refuse to understand, is that the sprawling township of Orange Acres – the downstream sprawling suburb of the old ghost mining town of New Idria – uses the water that pours out of the mining tunnels of cinnabar ore. It travels downstream into the Orange Acres filtration tanks and then blows through the plumbing in our trailers. Our neighbors upstream forget that their sewage becomes our drinking water, just like Hollister forgets about San Juan Bautista.

When I asked new freshman councilman Cousin Phony BooHoo how such a moronic decision could be made, he got defensive.

“Where else were we going to put all the crap?” he said. “The county is just bullying us again.”

Just like him to blame someone other than himself. Frankly, I’m not too keen on the idea of mixing toxic bacteria with toxic chemicals and toxic heavy metals, and then washing my dishes in it.

But the real blow came when the New Idria Orange Water District also sent a nasty letter saying they would initiate a dog-pile of litigation against us for ignoring state environmental regulations.

“We’re blasting this one across ye bow as a warning,” said the head of the District, plumber extraordinaire and former councilman Kemp.

I don’t know why all of a sudden we are subject to fines for breaking state environmental codes when we never were before, but we put a halt to the project anyway – for three days – while we scrambled all over the place to come up with documents to prove that the sewage storage/settling pond idea was a winner — exempt from state law, because it’s an emergency, just like Hollister said. (Though an emergency we both saw coming for six years; we just ignored it until it was an emergency.)

“You mean it’s an emergency because you sat on your hands for six years, and now the state – in typical bureaucratic Catch-22 fashion – is going to fine all our asses,” said Kemp.

“Can’t we all just get along?’ said new councilman Cousin Crony Minutia, who is spearheading the effort to resolve this thing through group hugs. “What’s done is done.”

As you can see, we put our best minds to work on the issue.

Unfortunately, the New Idria project was already well underway. Bubbling up from the depths of the manmade lake was a scary green glop. It glowed. I stuck a stick in it, but when I pulled it out it was giving off sparks.

When I got back to council chambers I had great news.

“Folks, we definitely have an emergency now,” I announced, holding up the smoldering stick.

“See? I told you so,” said Phony.

But in the end, it was Mayor Orange who had the last word on the issue when he came in through his cat door glowing neon green instead of his usual dusty orange self. He went up to Phony, turned around, “aimed cannon,” and yes, sprayed all over Phony’s pant leg.

That’s what I call firing one across the bow.

San Carlos Creek Update: The water coming down the creek was an eerie phosphorescent green for a while, until water guru Kemp diverted our precious acid mine drainage away from the now ruined settling pond. Now the water is good old orange again.

But Kemp warned that if the council ever does anything that stupid again to beat a fine, he’s going to start lobbing real cannonballs.

Being that he’s in charge of the New Idrian Anti-Fireworks League Amnesty Program, I think he could really do it.

Comments about the Badlands? Email Kate “Let’s just all get along” Woods at [email protected]

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