Hoopa Chairman Orders Freeze on Bringing Old Trailers Onto Reservation
By KRISTAN KORNS, Two Rivers Tribune
Hoopa Valley Tribal Chairman, Leonard Masten Jr. ordered all tribal departments and employees to stop “any activity that encourages or allows old trailers to be relocated onto the reservation.”
Masten said the order was in response to the growing problem of old trailers that were past their useful life being “donated” to tribal departments or tribal members as a way to cheaply dispose of them.
Tanya Lindsey, the environmental compliance officer for the Hoopa Tribal Environmental Protection Agency (TEPA) said, “It sounds like a great offer – ‘we’ll give you a free home to live in’ – but they’re really just getting rid of their solid waste.”
Many of the materials inside trailers, from the insulation in the walls to the hot water heaters, microwaves, and stoves, are toxic and have to be disposed of as hazardous waste.
Lois Risling, a realty specialist for Land Management, said, “You can’t just dump off an old trailer. They’re very expensive to process. You have to take all of the appliances out and dispose of them separately.”
Brian Sollom, the operations manager for Humboldt Sanitation & Recycling in McKinleyville, said people usually hire a contractor with an excavator to tear the trailer into small pieces and load it into 40-cubic-yard (8’ wide by 6’ tall by 22’ long) debris boxes.
“We’ve got a 40-yard debris box out there in Campbell Field right now,” Sollom said. “It’s $715 per bin plus $3 a mile from Willow Creek, and you pay the disposal fee of $122.70 per ton.”
Those prices don’t include the cost of renting an excavator, hiring an operator, or the disposal costs of the appliances, like refrigerators or water heaters.
Sollom said the bins typically hold about five or six tons per bin, and a single wide trailer would usually fit inside two bins after it was torn into pieces.
Tribal Attorney Mary Risling said, “It came to light that realtors were arranging donations as a way to cheaply dispose of them.”
“One example was an individual given a cost estimate of $11,000 to dismantle and dispose of a trailer, or they could donate it to a tribe or tribal member,” Mary Risling said.
Many of the trailers donated to tribal departments, and then given to individual tribal members to live in are perfectly fine, and have no problems.
Leslie Colegrove, the executive director of Hoopa Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), said her department helped clients move into their new homes, and worked to set up electrical, water, and sewage connections for them.
“We didn’t want our people to have any problems,” Colegrove said.
But trailers donated through other departments did run into problems. Some programs paid for the transport of the trailers, but not for water or electrical hook-ups.
In some cases, tribal members were depending on assistance with hook-ups that never came through, or that came through months later.
Land Management Director Ken Norton said, “You had some that were left unassembled, and they became ruined by the elements.”
This led to more trailers being abandoned, adding to the existing abandoned or burnt down trailers already in the valley.
Workers from TANF will work with Land Management and TEPA to scout out the situation, and do surveys to identify just how big the problem is.
Colegrove said, “What Land Management is talking about is 160 or so burned or abandoned trailers. We’re helping out with manpower to sort out the reality of what’s happening.”
The survey workers will be looking for things like broken windows, doors that are removed, fallen-in roofs, and other obvious signs that trailers aren’t being lived in.
Some abandoned trailers have been used as trash bins, and are packed with garbage and other waste that’s a health hazard to anyone living nearby.
Norton said, “This isn’t about homes with messy yards. If you see the door removed and vines are growing through it, then it’s obviously uninhabited.”
Norton said there are a large number of abandoned trailers visible from Highway 96, which will probably be the first priority for cleanup.
“You come through Hoopa and you see this beautiful valley, but you also see burnt down and abandoned trailers,” Norton said.