Note to Santa Rosa: When things are so bad that you’re on the opposite side from the Women’s Auxiliary, you might want to rethink your position.
It was 1923 and the smell of tort was in the air – among other things. Pressure was coming from neighborhood groups, which were either threatening suits against the city or demanding Santa Rosa sue its worst polluter. The state Board of Health was sending threatening letters to city hall because nothing was being done to fix serious violations of public health laws. And then there was the lawsuit filed early that year by a man who charged the city was responsible for his young daughters being sickened with typhoid and diphtheria.
What all of these complaints had in common was that they involved Santa Rosa Creek in some way – either something bad was being intentionally dumped into it or the city’s inadequate sewer farm was overflowing and flooding the adjacent creek with raw waste.
None of these were new problems. Complaints to the City Council about the abuse of Santa Rosa Creek dated back over thirty years, to 1891. Ordinances against pollution were passed but not enforced and court orders were ignored – as for the sewer farm contaminating the creek, the city was violating a perpetual restraining order going back to 1896.
Last month (Feb. 2021) I was part of a Historical Society of Santa Rosa webinar about Santa Rosa Creek. My portion, “The Stink of Santa Rosa Creek,” which begins in the video at the 32:00 mark, covers much of the history of pollution in the decades around the turn of the century, but I did not have time to discuss the pivotal year of 1923, when prospects greatly improved. This article is a companion to that presentation and wraps up the story.
Before we wade into that muck, however, first the fun stuff: Lake Santa Rosa, take III.
In early 1923, the Chamber of Commerce hosted a luncheon for an expert in urban planning and development to tell them how to best turn its city-owned property north of town – now the Junior College campus – into what was intended to become the “Luther Burbank Creation Garden.”* Seemingly to their surprise, his focus was instead on beautifying Santa Rosa Creek.
Thus inspired, come that spring Ward W. Von Tillow, head of the Chamber’s “Clean Up committee,” announced plans to restore several miles of the creek to its natural state. But the committee wasn’t going to stop there; they would build dams to create “ole’ swimmin’ holes” for the town’s youth. They also wanted to ask property owners along the creek to give away their strips of land immediately adjacent to the creek so “walkways, tennis courts, bath and boat houses can be built.” In short, they wanted to turn the creek into a full-blown waterpark.
This proposal probably led many in town to wistfully recall that about a dozen years earlier there was a short-lived effort to dam the creek to create “Lake Santa Rosa.” That plan was sabotaged both by upstream pollution and an obstinate landowner who maintained his property line extended fully into the middle of the creek. (Legally true, but meaningless in practice.) And even before that there was a proposed 1906 waterpark that included a bandstand, but that design was quickly forgotten after the Great Earthquake struck.
The 1923 ambitions likewise went nowhere. The creek revitalization by the committee was not mentioned again, as they turned to their routine springtime duties in getting the town “dolled up” for the upcoming Rose Festival. Homeowners were asked to sign a pledge to make their house and yard as presentable as possible, while volunteer crews and Boy Scouts picked up trash in alleyways and vacant lots, painted old fences and such.
Perhaps the Clean Up committee was so distracted by its pre-festival chores that it plumb forgot about creating a waterpark with “ole’ swimmin’ holes,” but it’s more likely they were discouraged by the outcome of a meeting that happened on exactly the same day. City Manager Abner Hitchcock held a summit between city leaders, the Women’s Auxiliary and the Chamber of Commerce directors. The topic: What to do about the public nuisance caused by the Levin Tannery.
There were then three tanneries in Santa Rosa (see “TANNERY TOWN“) and the largest was the Levin Tannery, which was at the current location of 101 Brookwood Ave. extending all the way to the creek – larger than a typical square city block.
Pity anyone who lived downwind of that place; the stench was offal (sorry, old pun). The tannery also dumped the untreated refuse of its tanning vats into the creek and the concentrations of lime and other highly toxic agents, including cyanide, quickly killed what few fish still ventured into the waters. Complaints about these problems dated back many years and were ignored until the new threat of lawsuits against Santa Rosa itself brought City Manager Hitchcock to call the meeting. Still, he included the proposed waterpark as an agenda item: “Beautiful parks, roses, swimming pools, wistaria vines and tannery dumps do not mix,” he conceded.
Predictably, nothing came from the meeting except for an agreement to meet again at some point to discuss zoning. (Probably meaning they wanted to rezone that entire section of town as industrial, making it easier for the city to justify ignoring odor complaints from nearby residents.)
The Levin Tannery got away with being the town’s worst water and air polluter because it was also its largest employer. Yes, the tannery discharges into the creek were illegal and yes, the company was sued over that as well as the smells. Each time the tannery promised to be a better citizen but did nothing, and the city let them get by with it out of fear they would take their hefty payroll to Petaluma or somewhere else.
It’s worth taking a moment to reflect on Santa Rosa’s remarkable degree of cognitive dissonance in that era. On one hand the town and its Chamber heavily leaned into PR that this was Luther Burbank’s garden paradise and the lovely city of roses, hoping to attract visitors and new residents. But at the same time, they were aiding and abetting the tannery in its ongoing destruction of the creek and its blanketing the town’s air with stomach-turning smells.
The State Board of Health had no interest in coddling the tannery’s illegal dumping, however, and sent Santa Rosa a blistering letter charging that pollution of the creek was “beyond any that exists anywhere else in the state,” and if the city didn’t take immediate action the Board would file injunctions against the polluters itself.
(A little Believe-it-or-Not! sidenote: The waterpark plan announcement, the summit meeting over the tannery smell and the arrival of the letter all took place during a single week in early April.)
As the Press Democrat noted at the time, the town had to prevent at all costs the state from taking action against the polluting industries, as “it would mean the losing of these plants to Santa Rosa, since they could not dispose of their own sewage and compete with competing plants more favorably situated.”
Santa Rosa was now faced with promptly solving a crisis thirty years in the making. Naturally, the city did what it’s always done: It hired an out-of-town consultant – and then mostly ignored his advice.
As I emphasized in my presentation, almost all of the creek’s problems were linked to the town not having an adequate sewer system until 1925.
Santa Rosa Creek was an open sewer until the first city sewer main was built in 1886, with “numerous” privately owned redwood sewers dumping raw sewage into the creek from downtown hotels and other large businesses. Some of those private lines were still in use until 1902, when they were banned by the city. (Aside from sources transcribed below or found in related articles on the creek, most of this older research comes from “The Sewage of Santa Rosa” by John Cummings.)
That first city sewer poured into the creek just west of Railroad Square (it’s always polite to welcome visitors with something fragrant) until 1890, when a sewer line was extended out to the newly constructed sewer farm, about where the Stony Circle business park is today. It was purposely built next to the creek so any overflow from the evaporation ponds or other parts of the system would spill into there along with the semi-filtered wastewater gushing from the outflow pipes.
The sewer mains were undersized from the start and upgrades always seemed to be about ten years behind current needs. Around the turn of the century, every winter Second and Fifth streets backed up with sewage seeping out of manholes during storms.
Being perpetually at full capacity (or beyond), for years Santa Rosa limited which businesses or industries could hook up to the sewer. The city allowed only one laundry to connect and even that sometimes overtaxed the sewer main on Second. The other laundries presumably just discharged their soapy alkaline water into the creek, although they were supposed to be using large cesspools.
The Levin Tannery never used the sewer system but the city’s other major creek polluter, the cannery, finally connected in 1925. Before then the sewer farm could not have possibly handled its waste, which was about 100,000 gallons per day during peak canning season. California Packing Company’s Plant No. 5 on West Third Street (survived by that big brick wall just past Railroad Square) also created a terrible stink in the west end of town due to its enormous garbage heaps of food waste allowed to rot along the banks of the creek.
C. G. Gillespie, director of the bureau of sanitary engineering of the State Board of Health wasn’t threatening action over Santa Rosa’s inadequate sewer lines in 1923, however. Besides the cannery and Levin dumping waste into the creek near downtown, the object of his fury was the sewer farm, where he wrote in his letter there were “utterly intolerable conditions.”
That was because in 1895 the sewer farm moved its wastewater outflow pipes farther west. As a result, several farms downstream were flooded that winter. The city paid damages but Mrs. M. A. Peterson took the city to court and won a perpetual restraining order, “prohibiting the city or its officers, agents and employees from polluting or poisoning the waters of Santa Rosa creek by discharging any sewage, garbage, filth or refuse matter in the creek from the sewer farm.”
Come 1923 and her son, Elmer, sued Santa Rosa for $12,000 damages (about $183k today) to cover medical expenses for his daughters allegedly having contracted typhoid and diphtheria because of the contaminated creek water. Another case at the same time which was apparently settled quietly had a Laguna farmer claiming creek water had killed thirteen of his cattle.
Unbelievably, it seems that the city actually stepped up the volume of discharges as the Peterson case awaited court hearings. The Petersons claimed that the sewer farm discharges were now continuous, and the judge ruled for the city to be held in contempt of court.
And despite further nastygrams from Director Gillespie (“conditions are getting more unbearable than ever before”) the city still did nothing about the dumping situation. Finally in November the state Board of Health dropped the hammer on Santa Rosa and declared the pollution of Santa Rosa Creek a “serious public nuisance and menace to health” and the city in violation of the Public Health Act.
The deadline for the city to fix everything was Jan. 1, 1925 – about thirteen months away.
The city moved quickly to schedule a special election for February 1924, asking voters to approve $165,000 in bonds to build a new sewer plant. It passed easily, with about 83% approval.
Director Gillespie followed that immediately with a letter to City Council. His message: The state doesn’t trust you to do the right thing.
“I am convinced that the seriousness of the sewer farm conditions is not generally realized in Santa Rosa,” he wrote. “…We must compel your attention to your own shortcomings in this particular, and look to you for an energetic and business-like solution of the utterly intolerable conditions which have been perpetrated too long.” He closed with another swipe that “the city pollutes Santa Rosa creek to an extent beyond any that exists anywhere in California.”
And surprise, surprise, surprise: Gillespie was right. We did screw it up.
Right after the sewage plant bonds were sold there was a big turnover in Santa Rosa’s government. Three new councilmen were elected (one of them also being named as the new mayor) and the city manager and city attorney resigned. Ideas which were considered and rejected a year earlier – such as “sewering to the sea” – were reconsidered. Doubts were raised over whether an entirely new plant was needed or the existing one just could be improved.
What the city then did could be considered underhanded: They sent the Board of Health plans for a modern sewage plant the city never intended to build. Instead they just added a couple of new wooden septic tanks and six more ponds to increase capacity.
Gillespie was spitting mad. He condemned “the inadequacy and futility of the makeshift efforts vou have been attempting at the sewer farm this past summer” and continued:
|…Your accomplishments and prospects of abating this nuisance are wholly unsatisfactory to us and an imposition upon the right of others in that vicinity. We expect you to forthwith carry through the program for building a real sewage plant as proposed by those in authority in Santa Rosa last spring and for which bonds were duly voted.|
Clearly the city was playing a game of chicken with the state, betting that Gillespie would back off as long as they showed progress was being made. The sewer farm began chlorinating wastewater before it was discharged. The Levin Tannery stopped dumping into the creek – it’s unknown what they began doing with their toxic waste, or why they couldn’t have started doing that decades earlier – and the cannery installed a grinder to chop up peelings enough to wash them down the drain.
The showdown came after the January 1925 deadline. The state sent a chemist to take a sample from the creek while two local chemists did the same. The state report found the water still highly dangerous; the Santa Rosa boys pronounced the samples free from contamination.
The Peterson family wrote to Gillespie asking if the water flowing through their property was now safe. He replied that “…Santa Rosa Creek is considerably polluted by this sewage. It is dangerous above the farm, fully 100 times more dangerous below and about 50 times more dangerous at your place, than above the farm.”
As for the Peterson lawsuit, it was decided in February 1924, about the same time that voters approved the sewer farm bond. He won the decision, but Judge Preston from Mendocino county dismissed damages related to the medical care for Elmer’s two daughters because the municipal corporation was not responsible since there was no “willful violation.” (I’ll pause here for Gentle Reader to scream in outrage.) But hey, the judge said Elmer could still sue city employees personally for negligence. He refiled his case to get a jury trial, but died of a heart attack before it came to court.
Santa Rosa’s wastewater finally met the state’s minimum standards, although it took until September 1926. But although the worst was over, the creek was still far from recovery. During the dry months Santa Rosa Creek near downtown was considered a fire hazard because of all the everyday rubbish still being dumped into the creek bed and upon its banks. (The fire dept. was called to put out such a fire in the summer of 1924.)
Also, the sheriff’s department apparently believed it was exempt from state pollution laws. That was the era of Prohibition and the cops were seizing enormous quantities of hootch, which they poured directly into the creek downstream from the sewer farm. In November 1926 alone, they dumped 1,730 gallons, mostly hard liquor including over a thousand gallons of jackass brandy. There were also 600 bottles of beer and the county detective and deputies “practiced up on their shooting until broken glass, foam and odor was all that remained.”
* Despite its name, the “Luther Burbank Creation Garden” had very little to do with Burbank, aside from a promise he would contribute some plants. It was really the latest installment in the perennial melodrama over Santa Rosa’s efforts to create its first public park, this time with the good juju of Burbank’s famous name and intentions that it would someday include a community auditorium, another benefit the town lacked. Nothing much came of it (although they passed the hat at events for years, seeking donations) and the property was sold in 1930 to become the basis of the new Junior College campus.
PARK COMMITTEE TO ENTERTAIN AT DINNER
Luther Burbank, Santa Rosa’s plant wizard, and Dr. Carol Aronovici, city planning expert of Berkeley, and a member of the University of California extension bureau, will be guests of the Luther Burbank Park committee of the chamber of commerce at a dinner to be served this evening in Edward’s Restaurant…
…Dr. Aronovici is noted throughout the States and nation as a leading beautification consultant. He has published numerous books dealing with the question and is a most interesting talker. Maps showing how Santa Rosa can be cleaned up and beautified and how Santa Rosa creek may be made into one of the beauty spots of the city will be exhibited.
– Press Democrat, January 25, 1923
Santa Rosa Revives Interest in City Beautification; New Plans Are on Foot
IS “Santa Rosa guilty of indecent exposure of its civic mind?” Go down and look into Santa Rosa creek before you answer that question. Go over to the old College grounds for an expose.
The beautification committee of the auxiliary has answered that question. It has called in an expert for consultation over the ruins that litter our highways and fill our creek beds. Under the aggressive determination of Mrs. Gray that committee will eventually cause beauty to flourish where tin cans now hold sway. Through their splendid co-operation the creek will some day wind through verdant banks.
The conference with Dr. Aronovici is crystalizing the plans that have been formulating during the past year. Gathered about the luncheon table Thursday, the women of the beautification committee discussed their troubles, unfolded their hopes and plans and were inspired anew by this expert’s advice.
But does the community generally want its civic mind to improve? Will it see that its own dooryard reflects only the peace of order and beauty? Shall Santa Rosa’s arteries to the rural districts run clean and healthy. Do you think it pays to be beautiful?
– Santa Rosa Republican, January 27, 1923
$12,000 Claim Against City Alleges Breaking Of 27-Year Injunction
Alleging that the city has violated an injunction granted his mother twenty-seven years ago by permitting polluted water to flow from the sewer farm into Santa Rosa creek, Elmer Peterson, who lives near the sewer farm and through whose property the creek runs, has filed a $12,000 claim for damages against the municipality.
Peterson, acting through Attorneys W. F. Cowan and J. Rollo Leppo, contends that his two children have had typhoid fever and diphtheria because of the city’s alleged failure to obey the injunction.
It was also reported Thursday that people living along the Russian river, particularly at some of the resorts, plan to take action through the State board of health to enforce observance of the injunction.
Those who are protesting the present situation say that sewage has been diverted from the septic tanks at the sewer farm into the creek, whence it flows into the laguna and then into the Russian river near Mirabel park.
REPORT CATTLE DEAD
One farmer in the laguna district is said to have reported that thirteen of his cattle had died from disease contracted through drinking the creek water.
– Press Democrat, February 9 1923
CONFERENCE ON TANNERY ODORS IS CALLED HERE
City Manager Asks Discussion as Result of Complaints Reaching His Office; Matter to Come Up Monday.
City Manager Abner E. Hitchcock on Wednesday took official cognizance of complaints which have reached his office about alleged offensive odors from the local tanneries.
In a statement issued by the city manager the chamber of commerce and the woman’s auxiliary are incited tn discuss the problem in an effort to find a solution to the problem.
As result of this communication the directors of the chamber and the executive committee of the auxiliary will take up the matter at a joint supper meeting to be held Monday evening.
City Manager Hitchcock’s statement of the situation follows:
Complaints are coming to the office of the city manager accusing these industrial concerns of being the source of some very obnoxious conditions, which interfere with the comfort and health of the homes situated in the vicinity of the plants.
Upon Inquiry I learn that these plants have been the cause of much contention at different times during a long period of years.
The offensive conditions have been complained of on the one hand by those who suffer by being near-residents about the plants. And the plants have been permitted to remain on the other hand by the business enterprise of the city by reason of the large pay-roll maintained and the substantial output from the business. As the city represents all classes, this subject must be taken up from the various angles.
The city manager therefore submits the problem as a referendum to these two bodies, viz:
The Chamber of commerce, representing the business enterprises of the city.
The Women’s Auxiliary, representing the welfare of the homes.
In order to receive, if possible, suggestions as to what should be the wise attitude to assume.
– Press Democrat, March 29 1923
Committee Plans Natural Park in Santa Rosa Creek
A natural park, several miles long, running clear through Santa Rosa, is the dream for the future of the Clean Up committee of the chamber of commerce, headed by Ward W. Von Tillow, well known Santa Rosa booster.
Von Tillow states that the Clean Up committee, which was voted permanent at a recent meeting, will center all activity in the near future on cleaning up and beautifying Santa Rosa creek, which, with a very little expense and effort, can be made one of the most beautiful streams in the state, but which, at present, is said to be one of the most unsanitary carriers of disease in the state, thanks to the various factories that are said to be using the stream as a garbage dump.
“The Clean Up committee has taken hold,” said Von Tillow this morning, “and we’re like a flock of bull dogs, we won’t let go until our aim is accomplished.”
The committee has as its aim the cleaning up of the entire creek, the finding of new methods of disposing of the scrap leather and tannin from the tanneries here, the cleaning out of all underbrush that is at present growing in the course of the stream, and the building of a series of dams in the creek so that a series of “ole’ swimmin’ holes” can be had for the youth of the city.
It is planned to approach the property owners all along the creek and try to get them to either donate or sell their rights to the creek to the city, so that the dream of the committee can be accomplished.
Property owners all along the creek own to the creek center and this property is not used by one out of 40 of the land owners, since it cannot be turned to any use as the creek now stands. The committee members hope to prevail upon the land holders to give their right up to the stream, in some instances including strips of land running back from the banks where walkways, tennis courts, bath and boat houses can be built. In a great many instances the city may buy large lots on the creek banks for picnic grounds, etc.
“The full intent of this aim of the committee,” stated Chairman Von Tillow this morning, “will give to Santa Rosa what no other city has.” He went on to state how his natural park will be the means of holding hundreds of tourists here each season, who otherwise will go on north to the river resorts or to the springs. This will mean much in revenue to the merchants of the city, it was stated, “and besides,” continued Von Tillow, “the cleaning up of the creek will greatly improver property values of the city.”
A joint meeting of the chamber of commerce directors, women’s auxiliary, the mayor and city manager will be held in the chamber of commerce office this evening to discuss the co-ordination of the program of work of the chamber of commerce and to take some action on the tanneries, which are said to be polluting the waters of Santa Rosa creek.
– Santa Rosa Republican, April 2 1923
Commerce Board Takes No Action On Tannery Dumps
The board of directors of the local chamber of commerce failed to take any action on the tannery matter after the subject had been given considerable discussion at the joint meeting of the board of directors, the woman’s auxiliary the mayor and city manager last night in Edward’s restaurant.
Manager Hitchcock told of a great many complaints he had received from residents in the vicinity of the tanneries and told how the water of Santa Rosa creek becomes discolored each season from the scraps of hide and seepage from the tanning tanks on the banks of the creek.
The matter was taken up before the chamber of commerce directors at the request of City Manager Hitchcock in the hope that that body could assist in getting the tanneries to find some other method of disposing of their waste.
It has been stated that unless the tanneries comply with the sanitary requirements the city will bring action against them. Several individuals residing near the tanneries have suggested suits against the tanneries to declare them public nuisances on account of the offensive odors and the unsanitary condition of the creeks.
The major part of the meeting last evening was taken up with a discussion of the aims of the clean-up committee in making a public park out of Santa Rosa creek. To do this the committee must first clean up the creek, it was pointed out and this to a great extent means cleaning up the tannery dumps.
“Beautiful parks, roses, swimming pools, wistaria vines and tannery dumps do not mix” stated Manager Hitchcock.
The necessity for immediate action for the protection of the city’s future as a residence center as well as preserving the permanent industrial locations. The only agreement reached at the meeting was when both boards favored city zoning. A conference will be held on this subject in the near future to take up the matter further. Those at the meeting were:
– Santa Rosa Republican, April 3 1923
COUNCIL ACTS TO GET EXPERT SEWER REPORT
Complete Remedying of Disposal Plant Foreseen Following Receipt of Hot Letter From State Board of Health.
As the result of a communication from the state board of health virtually delivering an ultimatum to the city over the condition of the sewage disposal system, the city council last night voted to bring Clyde Smith, of Berkeley, an expert, here to study the situation and make recommendations for a complete remedy.
The expert’s services will cost the city $25 a day and expenses.
The letter, signed by C. G. Gillespie, director of the bureau of sanitary engineering of the State Board of Health, declared that the “utterly intolerable conditions” at the local disposal plant have been “perpetuated too long,” and it accuses the city of never having done one thing in all its existence toward keeping pace in sewage disposal systems. There are no extenuating circumstances here as there are in some other cities, the letter adds.
MUST CLEAN CREEK
The state board declares further that the Santa Rosa creek must be cleaned, and the sewage from tanneries and canneries taken care of and that should the city renounce this obligation these industries will also have to be enjoined, with the probability that it would mean the losing of these plants to Santa Rosa, since they could not dispose of their own sewage and compete with competing plants more favorably situated.
The city pollutes the creek “beyond any that exists anywhere else in the state,” the letter charges.
A suggestion for running a sewer line to the ocean is characterized as fanciful and impractical, while the suggestion to extend the disposal system to the laguna is described as having some advantages, but as not necessary. The plan for building a flume to the upper end of the sewer farm is approved only as a temporary measure.
SUGGEST BOND ISSUE
The state board suggests that a bond issue for a new disposal system be submitted to the people and that if it fails to pass that the work be done by assessment under Improvement Act Proceedings.
After declaring that the seriousness of the situation evidently is not realized in Santa Rosa, the letter concludes with this:
“This communication puts on record the stand and opinions of this board. The problem is, so far as we are concerned, squarely up to you.”
– Press Democrat, April 11 1923
Tannery Odor Drive Is Made by Owners
The Santa Rosa-Vallejo Tanning Company is doing everything in its power to make its place of business sanitary to do away with all obnoxious odors and to prevent any deleterious matter going into the waters of Santa Rosa creek. This is vouchsafed by the sanitary inspector who has been overlooking the manufacturing plants of this city.
– Santa Rosa Republican, April 16 1923
Injunction Sought To Save Land From Damage By Creek
Suit for a restraining order to prevent J. J. Flynn, E. H. Crawford and Milton Wasserman from dumping more refuse in Santa Rosa creek was started in the superior court Saturday by Charles B. Kobes against the firm. Kobes, through his attorney Harry T. Kyle claims that his land will be damaged in high water by the refuse and earth thrown by the firm in building their new garage in First street through the diversion of the channel causing the water to tear out part of Kobes’ land…
– Santa Rosa Republican, July 16 1923
Tannery Owner Held For Polluting Stream
A complaint charging Nate Levin, owner of the Hermann Tannery in West Sixth street, with pollution of the Santa Rosa creek was filed in the police court here, Thursday by City Sanitary Inspector E. J. Helgrin. Levin is charged with maintaining a nuisance by pouring refuse from the tannery into the stream. The case was brought before Judge Collins. Levin has been released pending hearing of the case.
– Press Democrat, September 7 1923
WHY IS A TANNERY?
Dear Press Democrat:
Why is a tannery? Or, rather, three of them? When I first came to live on (pardon me in) Santa Rosa avenue, I boasted, unfortunately neglecting to knock on wood, that here at least was one part of our dear city not affected by tannery odors. But alas! Times have changed, or perhaps it is only the direction of the wind.
Borne on gentle zephyrs, toward the wee sma’ hours of morning, when all prudent people, and many others, are getting their very best slumber, comes a horribly insistent, unpleasant and penetrating odor, creeping through our homes, and gradually into our senses, till we waken, startled. (And they say the sense of smell is the hardest to arouse!)
Not having been reared to regard the night air as poisonous, my first thought is that perhaps some usually kind and considerate neighbor is nursing a grouch and burning the bones, remaining from Fido’s lunch of yesterday. But no. that could never, never be, not at the hour of 4:30 a. m.
Tannery smells may not be actually unhealthful, but dear me. how can one feel really fit and ready to face a busy day with happy smiles and a sweet disposition, minus one’s usual nine hours of pleasant slumber?
I suppose in time the problem of tanneries will be met and properly disposed of, for I have a wholesome respect for our city dads, C. of C. and all busy boosters and progressives. But God speed the day!
In the meantime let’s all lay in a supply of insense [sic]. Then on retiring at night, place it conveniently at hand, and if the occasion arises (and I admit it some times doesn’t) we are fully prepared with a counter-irritant, as it were, and can soon drift back to pleasant dreams, telling our sub-conscious that day by day – well, anyway, Santa Rosa is growing better and better.
Very truly, MRS. JAY. E. BOWER. [Amy Bower – Ed.]
– Press Democrat, October 19 1923
CITY FATHERS FACE CITATION IN SEWAGE CASE
Judge Rolfe L. Thompson issued a citation Thursday directing Mayor L. A. Pressley, the six members of the city council, City Manager Abner E. Hitchcock and City Manager [sic – City Engineer] G. F. Comstock to appear before him December 7, and show cause why they should not be punished for contempt of court in violating the perpetual restraining order issued to Mrs. M. A. Peterson May 14, 1896, prohibiting the city or its officers, agents and employees from polluting or poisoning the waters of Santa Rosa creek by discharging any sewage, garbage, filth or refuse matter in the creek from the sewer farm.
The order was issued on affidavit of John L. Peterson, successor to the interests of Mrs. Peterson, who alleges that since April 18, 1922, the city of Santa Rosa and its officers, agents and employees as named have discharged and caused to be discharged, large quantities of sewage, garbage, filth and refuse matter into Santa Rosa creek from the city sewer system and sewer farm. It is also alleged that this discharge of sewage has been continuous since September 4, 1923, in direct violation of the restraining order.
– Press Democrat, November 23 1923
COUNCIL UNANIMOUSLY BACKS MUCH NEEDED SEWER DISPOSAL PLANT
…Taking up the letter first it will be of interest to again publish an extract of what Mr. Gillespie says in making his demand for action on the city council. The letter in part says:
“I am convinced that the seriousness of the sewer farm conditions is not generally realized in Santa Rosa. Because the legislature has intrusted to this board the protection of streams against willful and unnecessary pollution and the disposal of sewage. In a reasonably inoffensive manner, we must compel your attention to your own short comings in this particular, and look to you for an energetic and business like solution of the utterly intolerable conditions which have been perpetrated too long.
“The city of Santa Rosa cannot be given credit for having done in all its existence one single serviceable thing toward keeping pace in its sewage disposal. You must realize that cities the country over are evolving new and better means of getting rid of their sewage, such that the laws of decency and health are better served.
“In your own case selection must rest between these two types of works, the Imhoof tank with sprinkling beds and the activated sludge system. Anything less is purely a makeshift and will not be acceptable to this board.
“Surrounding tbe farm, due to the intense growth of the vicinity you have created an obnoxious and abatable public nuisance. At other seasons, the city pollutes Santa Rosa creek to an extent beyond any that exists anywhere in California.
“There are still some regrettable violations of the law in sewage disposal in the state, but they are rapidly being corrected, usually by pressure within the community.”
– Press Democrat, February 9 1924