After seeing today’s article on ongoing efforts to control water pollution from waste left by the Penn Mine near Campo Seco, historian Sal Manna sent me a copy of an article he wrote on the devatation area residents and farms suffered from copper smelter smoke early in the last century. Manna quotes a 1910 Calaveras Prospect article: “The copper smoke has been so thick around here for the past week it has withered the almonds and garden stuff wherever it lights.”
The smelter smoke prompted lawsuits and the formation of new organizations, including, Manna wrote, “a Farmers Protective Association covering Calaveras, Amador and San Joaquin counties.”
Although some people did win money in their suits and although the state government did form a Smelter Waste Commission with the power to close smelters that injured plant and animal life, it was not until the end of World War I and the resulting drop in demand and prices for copper that the Penn Mine smelter closed, Manna wrote.
You can see his article in Volume IV of Something from Nothing, a publication on the early history of West Calaveras County.
Learn more at the Web site for the Society for the Preservation of West Calaveras History: westcalaverashistory.org