Bushwhacked

County officials wage war on Silverado Canyon bush-planter

Again, Nelson refused to cooperate. She appealed to the Board of Supervisors, lost, and continued to ignore the order. She hired Corona-based Microbac Laboratories, Inc. to test the soil. According to the California Environmental Protection Agency, compost soil is considered feces-free if it contains less than 1000 MPNs, the "most probable number" of organisms in a standard sample. Microbac's tests revealed that Nelson's compost contained fewer than 4 MPNs of fecal matter, making it 250 times less fecal than the state's safety standard. "Based on results, sample is negative for salmonella, E-coli, and fecal coliform," the analysis concluded.

On Dec. 23, 2005, two months after she lost her administrative appeal, Nelson still hadn't obeyed the county's order. That's when the district attorney's office hit Nelson with three misdemeanor counts of illegal dumping. Over the course of the last few months, the district attorney added a total of nine additional counts, all of them related to her failure to remove the berm.

Nelson plans to use her lab results to show that the berm isn't manure, but compost that's relatively crap-free.

Between legal fees and lab tests, she's run up a $50,000 tab fighting the county. She's had to sell her cabin in Wrightwood to fund her campaign, rather than surrender.

Most people might have just moved the dirt. But not Nelson. "This is an abuse of power," she says. "We have four drug houses up here in the canyon, and the county doesn't do anything about it. But they're willing to spend thousands of dollars going after me for a bunch of dirt and bushes."

nschou@ocweekly.com

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