.Notorious Napa Valley Landfill Gets International Press

As you probably know by now, the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI have been sniffing around the Napa Valley for the better part of the last year, apparently looking into county government officials and their connections to wine-industry power players and ag interest groups. The feds’ hypothesis — what they think might be going on — has remained a mystery. But given the magnitude of the probe, they seem pretty sure of it, whatever it is. And now, one of the main subjects of their investigation — the beleaguered, decades-old Clover Flat Landfill near Calistoga — is getting some pretty major international press. The Guardian newspaper in the U.K. just published a piece called “Napa Valley has lush vineyards and wineries — and a pollution problem.” The reporting was funded by the Environmental Working Group organization, famous for publishing a regular list of chemicals to avoid in food called “The Dirty Dozen.” Here’s an excerpt from the new Guardian piece: “Two streams run adjacent to the landfill as tributaries to the Napa River. A growing body of evidence, including regulatory inspection reports and emails between regulators and [Clover Flat Landfill] owners, suggests the landfill and a related garbage-collection business have routinely polluted those local waterways that drain into the Napa River with an assortment of dangerous toxins. The river irrigates the valley’s beloved vineyards and is used recreationally for kayaking by more than 10,000 people annually. The prospect that the water and wine flowing from the region may be at risk of contamination with hazardous chemicals and heavy metals has driven a wedge between those speaking out about the concerns and others who want the issue kept out of the spotlight, according to [Geoff Ellsworth], a former employee of CFL. ‘The Napa valley is amongst the most high-value agricultural land in the country,’ he said. ‘If there’s a contamination issue, the economic ripples are significant.'” Ellsworth, the guy quoted in the story, used to be the mayor of St. Helena, and is now part of a core group of environmental and political activists in the Napa Valley who believe major corruption has been festering for years — embodied quite viscerally by the oozing chemicals at the Clover Flat dump. The group has created an impressively hi-fi documentary series called “Garbage & Greed: Trashed in Napa Valley,” which you can watch here. It’s cool to see their tireless crusade now paying off in the form of pressure from all the way across the pond. More from the Guardian story: “Both the landfill and Upper Valley Disposal Services (UVDS) were owned for decades by the wealthy and politically well-connected Pestoni family, whose vineyards were first planted in the Napa valley area in 1892. The Pestoni Family Estate Winery still sells bottles and an assortment of wines, including an etched cabernet sauvignon magnum for $400 a bottle. The family sold the landfill and disposal-services unit last year amid a barrage of complaints, handing the business off to Waste Connections, a large, national waste-management company headquartered in Texas. Before the sale, Christina Pestoni… served as chief operating officer for UVDS and CFL, said in a statement that the company’s operations met ‘the highest environmental standards’ and were in full legal and regulatory compliance. Pestoni is currently director of government affairs at Waste Connections. In her statement, she accused Ellsworth and ‘a few individuals’ of spreading ‘false information’ about CFL and UVDS. But workers at the facilities have said the concerns are valid. In December of last year, a group of 23 former and then-current employees of CFL and UVDS filed a formal complaint to federal and state agencies, including the US Department of Justice, alleging ‘clearly negligent practices in management of these toxic and hazardous materials at UVDS/CFL over decades.'” (Source: The Guardian & The New Lede & Garbage & Greed & Napa Valley Register & Environmental Working Group)

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