Massive cleanup underway at former pot farm


There's lots of garbage and toxic leftovers from an illegal marijuana grow in Santa Clara County.

"We've seen some of the camp trash, poisons, pesticides, propane canisters, human waste, garbage leftover from years and years of camping," said Lt. John Nores, Jr. from the California Department of Fish and Game.

The Department of Fish and Game says clandestine operations like this one on public land create the worst kind of environmental assault, including chemical runoff and water diversion.

"They block up springs in order to get water for the grows and that deprives water to wildlife and plants that are native to the area, so it's a very important operation," said Kerry Carlson, from the Midpeninsula Open State District.

The restoration project is a mile hike into the remote Sierra Azul region and agents say the area is a magnet for growers funded by drug cartels. The original bust took place in August last year. There were 10,000 marijuana plants and two arrests.

"One of them was armed with a shotgun, there was a shotgun over there in the kitchen area and a rifle in the camp area," said Sgt. John Spagnola, from the Santa Clara County Sheriff's office.

On Wednesday the operation was less dangerous but dirty. A military Pave Hawk helicopter hauled out an estimated 10 tons of trash.

"We're finding stuff on the surface and we're uncovering a lot more trash underneath the soil," said Demitri Esquivel, a Fish and Game warden.

The clean up comes months after the pot plants were pulled from the ground, but it is an important step in the eradication process.

"By doing the cleanup we not only preserve the environment and take out these molotov cocktails of poisons that are killing our animals, we also eliminate their infrastructure and they can't operate here without bringing everything back," said Nores.

On the hike out, near a flowing creek, a threatened California newt made an appearance as if to acknowledge the work upstream.

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