Saturday, 13 July 2024


September 2008's star chart. Courtesy of John Zimmerman.


LAKE COUNTY – During the month of September, the Summer Triangle, discussed in last month’s column, shines brightly overhead.

Three bright stars make up the triangle: Deneb, Vega and Altair. They are shown on our star chart. Many of the stars in the sky have Arabic names. We will discuss how the stars in the triangle got their names.


Deneb is one of the most luminous stars in the sky. It is located in the constellation of Cygnus the Swan. Deneb comes from the Arabic word dhaneb, which means “tail.”

Our drawing of the three constellations that hold the three stars in the summer triangle shows Deneb to be the tail of the Cygnus Swan.





The Summer Triangle, courtesy of Digitalis Education.



Vega is the fifth brightest star in the sky, and is in the constellation of Lyra the Harp. Vega comes from the Arabic word waqi which loosely translates into “falling.”Ancient cultures often saw Vega as part of an eagle or vulture, hence the reference to falling.

It should be noted that General Motors named the Vega automobile after this star in the 1970s.


Altair is the 12th brightest star in the sky. It is located in the constellation of Aquila the Eagle. Altair is Arabic for “The Bird,” reflecting the fact that ancient cultures saw this constellation as a bird.

Aside from these stars, the planet Jupiter continues to shine brightly above the southern horizon. And on Sept. 16, about 30 minutes after sunset, the planets Venus, Mars, and Mercury can be seen low in the western horizon, along the star Spica.




The planets on September 16, 2008. Image courtesy of Sky and Telescope.



To learn more about Lake County Skies in September, and to observe these objects through a telescope, visit Taylor Observatory ( on Saturday, Sept. 20 from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.

John Zimmerman has been an amateur astronomer for 50 years. He is a member of the Taylor Observatory staff, where, among his many duties, he helps create planetarium shows.


LAKE COUNTY – The Lake County Sheriff's Office reported Friday that a homicide victim whose body was discovered last week in an illegal marijuana garden has been identified.

The body of Jose Luis Tafolla, 29, was identified as the result of an autopsy conducted Monday at the Napa County Coroner's Office, according to Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Tafolla had been reported missing from Santa Rosa on Sept. 1. Sheriff's official discovered his body in a shallow grave in a large marijuana growing operation off of Highway 175 in Middletown last week, as Lake County News has reported.

Bauman said sheriff’s detectives attending the autopsy found that Tafolla had sustained multiple high-velocity gunshot wounds. Fingerprints collected during the autopsy were used to confirm Tafolla's identity on Tuesday.

On Monday, a combined task force of sheriff’s detectives, sheriff’s Search and Rescue and members of Kelseyville’s K-Corps conducted a daylong extended search of the eradicated marijuana operation and homicide scene for any remaining evidence relating to the homicide. Bauman said the search operation yielded several more items of physical evidence, including more ammunition and spent firearms cartridges believed to be connected to the homicide.

On Thursday, sheriff’s detectives served two search warrants relating to the homicide investigation on residences in the city of Santa Rosa, said Bauman. Those search warrants resulted in the interview of several potential witnesses and revealed the identities of several new persons of interest.

Since detectives began this investigation, they have learned that Tafolla reportedly left Santa Rosa on Aug. 24 with two associates and went to the marijuana grow in Lake County, apparently intending to steal marijuana by force to settle a debt owed to one of them by one of the growers, according to Bauman.

The three were not supposed to return to Santa Rosa for about a week but the day after they left, Tafolla’s two associates returned without him and his girlfriend – who Bauman said was previously believed to be Tafolla's wife – became concerned.

By Labor Day weekend, Tafolla had still not returned to Santa Rosa. When his girlfriend insisted on knowing his whereabouts, one of the two he went to Lake County with a week prior told her he had been shot and killed in a gun fight when they tried to steal the marijuana. Bauman said she then notified authorities in Santa Rosa of circumstances surrounding Tafolla’s disappearance.

Interviews and the condition of Tafolla's body when he was recovered from the marijuana operation indicate he was killed on or about Aug. 24, said Bauman.

He said that the two men arrested as they fled the area of the marijuana operation on Sept. 3 are still believed to be connected to the homicide, however, the investigation has yet to yield enough information to either charge them or clear them of any direct responsibility.

The investigation remains open pending further work by sheriff’s detectives, Bauman reported.


LAKEPORT – A tree took down a power pole and power lines in an area of Lakeport on Thursday.

The lines and power pole were in the area of Third and Crawford, officials reported.

Brandi Ehlers, a Pacific Gas and Electric spokesperson, said the initial outage was reported at 5:31 p.m. and involved secondary power lines.

She said the outage affected eight customers in downtown Lakeport from 18th to Starkeys Lane and from Clearlake Avenue to Highway 29.

PG&E workers were transporting a new pole through town on Thursday evening. Ehlers said they were replacing the pole and restringing the lines.

She said power should be restored to all customers by 5 a.m. Friday.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


NORTH COAST – A 3.3 earthquake shook The Geysers and residences on Cobb Saturday afternoon.

The quake occurred at 1:27 p.m. at a depth of 1.9 miles two miles east of The Geysers, four miles southwest of Cobb and four miles west northwest of Anderson Springs, the US Geological Survey reported.

Cobb resident Roger Kinney reported that the quake could be felt for about five seconds.

It's been a busy week for seismic activity on the North Coast.

Just after 6 a.m. Friday a 3.6-magnitude earthquake was recorded at a depth of 1.6 miles four miles east of Willits, according to the US Geological Survey.

On Tuesday at 5:40 a.m., the US Geological Survey reported a 3.0-magnitude quake took place two miles northeast of Healdsburg.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


KELSEYVILLE – A Friday morning fire destroyed a Kelseyville home.

Engineer/Paramedic Jim Dowdy of the Kelseyville Fire Protection District, who was incident commander, said an off-duty district fireman spotted the blaze at 3045 South Lake Drive.

The home was fully engulfed when it was first reported, said Dowdy. The fire was dispatched at 10:30 a.m.

Kelseyville Fire responded with four engines, while Lake County Fire Protection sent a water truck and and and engine, and Cal Fire provided two engines, a hand crew, a battalion chief and a helicopter, Dowdy said.

The fire destroyed the two-story home and burned less than a quarter-acre of nearby wildland, said Dowdy.

No one was at home when the fire broke out, and Dowdy said no firefighters were injured.

He said the home is a complete loss. A full damage estimate wasn't available Friday afternoon, although Dowdy guessed that the home was worth about $350,000.

It's been a busy few weeks for home fires, with previous blazes destroying homes in Kelseyville and Upper Lake.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


LAKEPORT – The 29th Annual Clear Lake Splash-In is scheduled to return to Lakeport later this month.

The event will take place Sept. 19 through 21.

Organized by SeaPlane Operations LLC, the Clear Lake Splash-In is the oldest and largest seaplane gathering in the Western United States.

Concurrent with the splash-in is the Lakeport Seaplane Festival at Library Park on Saturday, Sept. 20.

Arrivals and registration begin Friday, Sept. 19, at noon with most activities scheduled for, and aircraft arrivals expected on on Saturday, Sept. 20.

Headquartered at the Skylark Shores Resort, the event utilizes the nearby Natural High School field for on-shore parking of amphibious seaplanes. Land planes use nearby Lampson Field and the Aero Airport Shuttles provides shuttle services to and from the venues.

Exhibitors from Big Foot Air, Delta Seaplane Tours, Norcal Aviation, the Seaplane Pilots Association and Leading Edge Insurance will be providing information and seminars for anyone interested in Flying and Seaplanes.

Community support from Lake County, the City of Lakeport, the Lakeport Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Lake County 4H Club, the Lake County Public Works Department, and the Lakeport School District has made this the local, successful event it has become.

The event draws visitors from throughout the region, with hundreds of people coming to see the planes on exhibit in Lakeport.

Part of the weekend is the Lakeport Seaplane Festival put on by the Lakeport Regional Chamber of Commerce. Now in its second year, the festival celebrates the annual return of the seaplanes to Lakeport. Beginning at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 19, the L.C. Diamonds will present a free concert in the gazebo at Library Park.

Taking place in Library Park from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday, the Festival features seaplane rides, model aircraft flying from 11a.m. to noon. At 12:15 p.m. there will be demonstrations by both Air Station Sacramento's fixed wing C 130 doing a survival equipment drop just off shore and a helo doing a rescue demo in the same spot to follow, seaplane flying exhibitions on the lake in front of the park, vendors, food booths and great fun for the whole family.

Four local car clubs will participate in a “Show and Shine” display of their beautiful cars: The No Name Car Club, Lake County As, Mt. Konocti Antique Auto Club and the Corvettes of Lake County. The Lakeport Fire District will have a booth with an engine on display and the Lakeport Police Department will have information on display as well.

The official opening of the festival will be at 11 a.m. with a parachute jumper landing at the Third Street ramp.

Seaplane pilots from throughout the region, and from out-of-state, attend to show off their planes and see others. Approximately 50 seaplanes are expected to attend, making an interesting day of flight and ground displays. Water bombing contests and spot landing contests will allow pilots to showcase their planes and flying skills.

The Lake County 4H Club will provide food and drink during the day at the Natural High School Field and the Skylark Shores Resort as well as a tri-tip dinner at the Skylark Shores Resort Saturday evening.


See for complete information. Further details will be posted on the Website as times and events are confirmed. Photos from past Clear Lake Splash-Ins are available on the website as well.


On Saturday, Sept. 6, the Red Lava Tasting Room officially opened with a free wine tasting and hors d’ouvres menu. The hors d’ouvres were provided by Pine Dell Resort and Deli in Clearlake Park. Part of the proceeds from the sale of wines went to benefit the Lake Family Resource Center and there was a raffle for several prizes containing a variety of wines, art, and various other goodies, the proceeds of which also go to benefit the center.

You’ve probably figured out by now that if I get an invitation to attend a function that involves food and wine I consider it, but if it also benefits a local charity you can consider me there.

The Red Lava Tasting Room is located on Highway 29, right by Kit’s Corner. The tasting was well attended during the time I was there, and there was the requisite ribbon cutting with the ceremonious giant scissors ... It makes you wonder: is there enough of a market out there for giant scissors that they have a factory punching out hundreds of them per hour, or is there just one pair of giant scissors that gets moved from location to location opening every business in the land? I’m just curious.

I enjoyed talking to the staff and was well entertained. They are fairly knowledgeable, although some will admit to still be learning. Because of their willingness to admit this, I got the feeling that I was tasting wine with friends more than with a salesman. I’ve been in too many tasting rooms that are filled with pretension and snobbery, and I just roll my eyes when winery staff says things like “Our vineyards are only watered by the tears of angels as they weep for joy at the thought our wine.”

The wine industry has suffered too long with the stigma of the snooty French waiter pointing his nose into the air for wineries to put up with that kind of attitude, and unfortunately Lake County does have a couple of them. But not here in the Red Lava Tasting Room; you’ll be welcomed like an old friend.


The Red Lava Tasting Room serves wines from several wineries around Lake County that don’t have tasting rooms yet. I appreciated this cooperative spirit; everyone lends a hand to make the small tasting room a success, and all these small wineries get the exposure they need. The day of the grand opening they were serving 13 different wines from five different wineries, including their own. We tasted all of them and my wife jotted down notes as we tried each one.


The menu given to us as we started has a spot for tasting notes and mine is sitting here in front of me with some scribbled words, for instance next to Red Lava Vineyard the notes say “Porty aroma,” “Smokey,” and “Surprisingly full.” Robledo Family Vineyards has “a little nutty,” and “Dry, fruity.” Eden Crest says “A mild red for people who normally wouldn’t like red.” Shed Horn Cellars: “Full bodied, nice legs.” My wife will just edit out any joke I make here ... Sol Rouge Winery: ... The tasting room was serving two of their wines, but I’ve already reviewed them. I’ll have to admit Sol Rouge is becoming a favorite in our house, so tasting their wines at an event like this is just a chance to have some of theirs free since we already have several bottles at home.

The signage out in front of the tasting room is straightforward and plain, but it’s a brand new place and I’m sure it will get customized as they settle in. The psychological effect when viewing the sign is interesting: when seeing the place for the first time my wife was unimpressed with the sign or exterior and subconsciously lowered her expectations, but as we left she commented that the wines were all so much better than she was expecting. I guess first impressions can be changed. Tastings normally cost $5 per person, and for 13 wines that is quite fair. There is a wide enough variety of wines to ensure you will find something that you like.

The Red Lava tasting room also carries some amazing art works from local artists, both paintings and photography. And of course I have to mention the countertop that the tastings are served at – that is one amazing and beautiful chunk of wood! I personally will be returning to the Red Lava tasting room to purchase wines on a regular basis.

As I mentioned before, proceeds from the raffle and some of the wine sales will go to benefit the Lake Family Resource Center. The Lake Family Resource Center is a network for emergency services to help people in a multitude of circumstances including domestic violence, rape, child abuse, child development, parenting support, support groups, even tobacco control programs. They are always in need of donations, primarily in the form of money but also clothes, furniture, household goods, food, and volunteers. With the exception of money, their needs are not necessarily in that order.

If anyone is interested in answering the crisis hotline there is a class coming up in October to train those interested. They could use people with almost any expertise so if you have the time, they have the need; even if you are a professional Himalayan sherpa I’m sure they could use you.

They are a nonprofit community benefit organization so your donations are tax-deductible. The Lake Family Resource Center crisis line is 1-888-485-7733 and is staffed 24 hours a day. Their non-emergency number is 707-262-1611. They are headquartered at 896 Lakeport Blvd. in Lakeport and have an additional office at 14671 Olympic Dr. in Clearlake.

The Red Lava Tasting Room and the Lake County Resource Center – two great features for the Lake County community.

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community.


MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – After a busy season of forest fires closed the Yolla Bolly Middle Eel Wilderness, Mendocino and Six Rivers National Forest officials reported that the wilderness will reopen at 6 a.m. Monday, Sept. 15.


The wilderness area was closed June 26 due to wildland fire activity and in the interest of public safety. The closure was initially effective through the end of the 2008 fire season, which traditionally ends in October with the first rains.

Last month the Yolla Bolly Complex was contained after burning nearly 90,000 acres in two months, officials reported.

For visitor safety, the portion of the Wilderness on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest will remain closed until further notice due to the number of snags along trails.

The reopening means hunters and other recreational users will be able to enjoy the Yolla Bolly Middle Eel Wilderness this fall before the rain starts.

However, until there is significant rain, forest officials warn that we are still in an active fire season and this area has already been affected by fire. Visitors are asked to use caution in these areas and to respect the fire restrictions that are still in place.

Because there is inherent risk in any outdoor activity, visitors are cautioned that they should be aware of the challenges associated with recreating in wilderness areas, including:

  • Falling dead trees or tree branches – commonly known as snags – especially in windy conditions. Note that trees in burned areas may still look alive, but could be unstable after being burned.

  • Weak and unstable spots on the forest floor from burned out stumps and roots.

  • Slippery conditions from ash, needles, and other debris, particularly when wet.

  • Flash floods and mudslides in burned areas without vegetation.


Visitors should be prepared for changing weather conditions, including temperature fluctuations and the potential for precipitation, especially at higher elevations.

Campsites should be located away from burned areas, areas that may be subject to falling or rolling debris or trees, or beneath cliffs or steep slopes.

Visitors also are asked to help protect forest resources by remaining on designated roads. Motor Vehicle Use Maps are available for the Mendocino National Forest.

For more information, contact the Six Rivers National Forest Mad River Ranger District at 707-574-6233 or visit; the Mendocino National Forest Covelo Ranger

District at -707-983-6118, Grindstone Ranger District at 530-934-3316 or visit; or the Shasta-Trinity National Forest Supervisor’s Office at 530- 226-2500 or visit


LAKE COUNTY – After several weeks of clear blue skies smoke from Northern California wildfires has begun making its way back into Lake County's air basin.

The smoke that was visible in recent days is from uncontrolled fires burning in the north part of the state, including the Iron Alps Fire along with the Shasta-Trinity and Klamath National Forest wildfires, Lake County Air Quality Management District officials reported.

Hazy conditions are expected to be temporary with the return of blue skies. Local air quality has been in the good range and is expected to remain in the good range through the weekend, according to the district.

West to southwest winds are expected through Friday, keeping much of the wildfire smoke to the north and east of Lake County.

Some residual smoke may impact areas of Northern California, including Lake County at a much reduced level, until these lightning complex wildfires are extinguished.


The Mighty Crows in their Saturday performance. Photo by Dave Hendrick.

LOWER LAKE – The place to be for great music this weekend in Anderson Marsh, which is hosting the annual Old Time Bluegrass Festival.

The festival began on Saturday and will continue Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Anderson Marsh State Historic Park in Lower Lake.

This family-friendly event brings together local and regional musicians for performances on two stages, as well as a full schedule of musician workshops throughout the day.

The festival features live music on two stages, demonstrations and vendors selling old-time handmade crafts, Art in the Barn, wine and beer gardens featuring Lake County wines, and food from local purveyors.

Headliners of the festival include The Mighty Crows, Alhambra Valley Band, Mountain Laurel Band, Pat Ickes and Bound to Ride, Sidesaddle and The Mighty Chiplings.

Other entertainers include the local Elem Indian Tribe Dance Group who will kick off the event, plus local groups Andy Skelton and the Konocti Fiddlers, the Clear Lake Clickers, Public Nuisance, Don Coffin and the AMIA Live Wire Choir, and Laura and Darin Smith.

Sponsors include the Anderson Marsh Interpretive Association and the Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce, as well as numerous businesses and service organizations.

Anderson Marsh State Historic Park is located at 8825 Highway 53, Lower Lake.

For information call 800-LAKESIDE, 274-5652, or visit or



The Clear Lake Clickers perform. Photo by Dave Hendrick.


Customers crowd into the gas station Thursday afternoon. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKEPORT – What started out as a customer appreciation promotion at a Lakeport gas station ended with traffic gridlock and public safety concerns.

On Thursday, Tower Mart on Lakeport Boulevard began selling regular unleaded gasoline for $1.99 per gallon, with discounts for other grades of gas as well, except for diesel, which remained at $4.29 per gallon.

Tower Mart Regional Manager Walt Huth said he found out from the corporate offices Thursday morning that the reduced gas was being offered beginning at noon as part of a special promotion.

At about 12:01 p.m., Lakeport Police started receiving a deluge of calls, said Sgt. Kevin Odom of Lakeport Police.

Over the next few hours, callers reported a massive traffic jam at Highway 29's Todd Road exit and down Lakeport Boulevard, said Lt. Brad Rasmussen. There also were reports of irate people – some of them getting ready to fight.

Lakeport Unified School District's transportation supervisor called to express concern about school buses being able to get through town between 2:45 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., said Rasmussen.

Odom and Officer Norm Taylor initially were sent out to investigate the situation, and found traffic was lined up from the station down Lakeport Boulevard to Main Street, Rasmussen said.

Both northbound and southbound off ramps were backed up with traffic almost to the highway, said Rasmussen. At one point, drivers were backing down the off ramps or blocking intersections. Gas station clerks were out near the road beckoning divers into the business.

“We discovered they had not done any planning for this,” said Rasmussen, who added the promotion was supposed to go on for four days.

A California Highway Patrol sergeant and a Lakeport Public Works superintendent responded to the scene along with Lakeport Police. Rasmussen said they quickly became concerned that if the promotion went on until 5 p.m. as planned, the public safety concerns would only mount.

Rasmussen said the clogged streets caused delays for people trying to get to other businesses in the area and to Mendocino College's Lake Center on Parallel Drive.

Across the street, McDonald's owner John Norcio said that he did not feel that his lunchtime business had been adversely effected. His staff had begun taking orders from drivers waiting in the backup and had runners delivering food directly to the cars.

Rasmussen spoke to Lakeport City Attorney Steve Brookes about legal concerns before asking the station to shut the promotion down until he could meet with city officials to form a plan.

Police didn't want to harm the station's business but their concerns about safety were the primary issue, Rasmussen explained.

Store manager Debbie Bottorff said the sale shut down about 1:30 p.m.

Rasmussen said police helped control traffic around the gas station. Anyone still in line when the shutdown was called were allowed to purchase gas. By the time police left the area it was nearly 3 p.m.

People were still busily stopping into the station all afternoon.

Bottorff said sales figures for the sales period were not available Thursday afternoon. She estimated that on a normal day the station pumps a total of 2,600 gallons.

Tower Mart offered the reduced gas at seven other areas around the state, including Lincoln and Lathrop. In Lathrop, the resulting traffic jams also led to a shutdown over public safety concerns, according to media reports.

Rasmussen said he had asked Huth to meet with city officials Friday morning to go over a plan for future reduced gas sales, and Huth agreed, although later in the day he changed his mind and canceled.

Huth indicated that the Lakeport station would still offer some gas discounts in the coming days, with prices expected to be set at $3.29 through the weekend.

Elizabeth Larson contributed to this report.

E-mail Harold LaBonte at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..




Traffic was lined up down the highway off ramp. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




The line of vehicles stretched down to Main Street. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




The prices at the station haven't been seen in a long time. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



From left, Julie Price, Bruce McCracken and Juan Ortega with one of Lake County Waste Solutions' new split body trucks for collecting garbage and recyclables. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



LAKEPORT – Thinking green, living green and developing greener technologies and business models is on a lot of peoples' minds these days. {sidebar id=94}

Some of the most original work going on to make lives greener isn't just going on in think tanks or startup companies; if you want to see the front line of green, you have no farther to go than a local garbage and recycling center.

Lake County Waste Solutions has a franchise agreement with Lake County, and collects trash, recyclables and greenwaste in all unincorporated areas of the county except Middletown, Cobb and the Clear Lake Riviera. They also have the trash collection agreement for the city of Clearlake and for Ukiah.

Bruce McCracken and two partners bought the company, formerly known as Timberline, in September 2007. Before becoming a part owner, McCracken had been involved with managing the company's local operations on and off since 1988.

Since purchasing the company McCracken and his partners have made substantial investment in the company, including updating the 20 garbage trucks that serve Lake County in order to meet new California Air Resource Board guidelines, and have replaced 12 trucks in the county's fleet. The company employs 61 people, 32 of them at its Lake County operations.

“I'm a proud papa,” McCracken said of his company.

He's especially proud of the new “split body” trash collection trucks, two of which run in Clearlake and three in the county.

A brand new split body truck runs just under $300,000 and allows both trash and recyclables to be dumped into the same truck and separated into the truck's two holding bins. The trucks make trash collection more efficient, said Julie Price, the company's recycling manager.

The trucks have, however, generated a little public concern.

When they first appeared on the streets and people saw recyclables being dumped with the trash, the company began getting a lot of calls. Juan Ortega, the company's dispatcher, said some drivers were being chased down the street. McCracken said he thinks more people are interested in where their garbage and recyclables go, which gave rise to the reaction.

Even with the new investments, the company has managed to keep its rates low, averaging about $12 per month. “We're not only the lowest in Lake County, we're the lowest in the region,” said McCracken.

Lake County Waste Solutions has plans to expand its Soda Bay Road facility to include a larger transfer station that will be built on an adjacent piece of land. The company and the county are in discussions about having the new transfer station take over for the county's Bevins Street trash collection facility, at no additional cost to customers. The new transfer facility would come online next year.

McCracken said the new center will allow the company to increase its efforts to pull more recyclable items out of the trash. “We think you could see diversion skyrocket in the county.”

The current yard would be used as a recycling buyback center, with more space to welcome customers. The facility also would be covered to be more welcoming in all weather. McCracken said they may even be able to have their own version of “Recycle Town,” the reclaimed materials sales center at the Sonoma County Dump.

Once they collect trash, it isn't just a matter of taking it to the landfill. For a garbage company to take a lot of trash to the dump isn't good for the bottom line, said McCracken. “Taking it to the landfill is what we don't want to do.”

Rather, they're looking at every opportunity to divert more materials from the trash and into cash.

Last November, as an experiment, McCracken and several staffers at their Ukiah facility went through the contents of a garbage truck and sorted it all by hand. They found that as much as 70 percent of what was in the trash was really recyclable.

McCracken said more manufacturers are realizing that it's both less expensive and better for their public image to use materials that can be recycled or are themselves reused. At the same time, the garbage collection industry is changing – and it's not just about trash anymore.

So, what materials do they find in the trash that don't belong? Paper, plastics and construction materials, they say.

In the case of plastics, they can now take all types, rather than just a few as in the past, including plastic bottle caps.

Rigid plastics, such as toys, milk crates and laundry hampers, also now can find a place in the company's blue recycling containers.

As recycling manager, Price's job is to look for businesses that reuse the myriad materials that are found in the trash. She said she has a big “to do” list of materials for which she's looking to find new uses.

Her job also will include a public outreach campaign. The company's new Web site,, is set to launch next month and will feature information about recycling and how people can help divert more of the waste stream from the dump.

McCracken said they're always looking at new opportunities to keep things out of the landfill. That led them to sell greenwaste to businesses that make wood chips out of it or, in some cases, to bioenergy companies.

Electronics – televisions, computers and the like – are taken to a Fresno facility where they're disassembled, said McCracken.

Cardboard, much of it produced in China, is usually sold back to recycling businesses in that country, he said.

The company's Ukiah facility will begin accepting clothes and shoes next month from its Mendocino County customers. Price said they have a contract with Goodwill, which takes the clothes. They hope to be able to offer the same service in Lake County in the future.

McCracken said the company's next big goal is to find uses for materials such as food waste and roof tiles.

Price said it's amazing what people will throw away; they're always finding things that can be reused. They said all of their office furniture is reclaimed from the trash. Sitting outside of the offices were four matched wooden chairs in good condition that had been thrown out and which one staffer was taking home.

With recyclables becoming more valuable, the company is becoming more protective of the materials. Lake County Waste Solutions and other local garbage collection companies are keeping an eye out for recycling poachers.

McCracken said it's a growing problem which isn't just illegal but breaks their franchise agreement. “It's potentially tens of thousands of dollars a year.”

He attributes the increase in recycling poaching to two main reasons – the lagging economy and the prices of materials skyrocketing.”

Because of those higher prices, metal thefts also have been a concern in some parts of the state. He said ATT has a number they ask recyclers to call if someone appears with a spool of copper wire.

However materials prices recently have begun falling; some of that may be due to factories in places like China, where the need to improve air quality during the Olympics led the country to temporarily close down some of its factors, Price said.

Some of the company's future goals include looking at alternate fuels for garbage trucks. For now, they're still running on diesel, although McCracken said garbage companies in other parts of the country are looking at hybrids. “Something's coming,” he said.

The dream, said McCracken, is that someday trash itself could be used for fuel, an idea he said “is not too Jetsony.”

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



The split body trash trucks make garbage and recyclables collection more efficient. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


Upcoming Calendar

07.13.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
07.13.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Lake County Library Bookmobile special stop
07.16.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
07.17.2024 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Free veterans dinner
07.20.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
07.23.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
07.27.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
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07.30.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.03.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.06.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park

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