Toxic chemicals from illegal marijuana farms hidden deep in California’s forests are showing up in rivers and streams

Toxic chemicals from illegal marijuana farms hidden deep in California’s forests are showing up in rivers and streams, by Sharon Bernstein.

“I don’t drink out of the creeks – and I used to,” said Sergeant Nathaniel Trujillo, a narcotics expert with the sheriff’s department of Trinity County, about 200 miles north of San Francisco. “I grew up drinking out of them.”

California accounts for more than 90 percent of illegal U.S. marijuana farming. There are as many as 50,000 marijuana farms in California according to state estimates, and even though voters legalized the drug last November, only about 16,000 growers are expected to seek licenses when commercial cultivation becomes legal next year.

The chemicals have turned thousands of acres of forest into waste dumps so toxic that law enforcement officers have been hospitalized after inadvertently touching plants and equipment, and scores of animals have died.

The streams in which they have been detected are crucial sources of water for fish, vulnerable animals including the Pacific fisher and the Northern Spotted Owl and are used for drinking by people and cattle. Ultimately, the contaminated rivers and creeks flow into the massive water supply system relied on by the most populous U.S. state. …

Carbofuran poisoning can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, uncontrollable muscle twitching, convulsions and even death, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Poisoning by diazinon, another chemical Gabriel has found in streams, can cause difficulty breathing, weakness, blue lips and fingernails, convulsion and coma, the agency says.