Surfrider, Humboldt history


The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world’s oceans, waves and beaches. Founded in 1984 by a handful of visionary surfers in Malibu, California, the Surfrider Foundation now maintains over 50,000 members and 80 chapters worldwide.

One of Surfrider Foundation’s first and largest victories was a successful Clean Water Act lawsuit filed in 1989 and settled in 1991 against pulp mills in Humboldt County, California that were operated by Simpson Paper Company and Louisiana-Pacific Corporation. These pulp mills used chlorine in the “Kraft” bleaching process to turn brown wood pulp into white paper. In so doing, the mills discharged approximately 40 million gallons per day of untreated wastewater into the near-shore surf zone. This wastewater contained excessive concentrations of Biological Oxygen Demand and suspended solids, had a pH value outside of the permit limits, and contained dioxins and furans, extremely toxic chemicals created by the use of chlorine in the bleaching process. Surfers in the area of the discharge complained of skin rashes and nausea. The mills also produced hazardous, irritating air emissions.

The settlement won by Surfrider Foundation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (at the time, one of the largest penalties levied by the EPA under the Clean Water Act, and the largest in the Western U.S.) required the pulp mills to construct wastewater treatment facilities to eliminate toxic discharges to the ocean and extend their ocean outfall pipes. The mills also agreed to evaluate the elimination of the use of chlorine in the pulp bleaching process through substitution of chlorine dioxide and/or hydrogen peroxide in an Elemental Chlorine Free (ECF) or Totally Chlorine Free (TCF) process. The Louisiana-Pacific (now owned by Evergreen Pulp, Inc.*) mill became the first TCF bleached Kraft pulp mill in the U.S. in 1993.

Humboldt Area Foundation Fund

When the pulp mill lawsuit was settled, a major victory for environmentalists and organizations such as The Sierra Club and Surfrider Foundation, a fund was established through the Humboldt Area Foundation in order to finance other projects to ensure that our waters would stay clean and unpolluted. This account, called the Humboldt Bay Recreation Enhancement and Water Quality Fund, has funded many great projects in our community.

Click here to see the chart that shows how much funding was granted to various local organizations and for what purpose. Surfrider is proud to be associated with the progress of many great environmental organizations working on healthy coasts and waters for us all.

Surfrider, the first 10 years

Click here to view/download a pdf file commemorating Surfrider’s first 10 years.