Kettleman City residents voice landfill expansion concerns

July 31, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Earlier this month, the state moved forward on a plan that would allow a toxic waste landfill in Kings County to expand.

Waste Management Inc. runs the landfill. It is currently 16 acres and is near capacity. The company wants to add an additional eight acres to their site.

Not everyone is happy. For several years, many have complained about the landfill creating a toxic environment. Many blame the landfill for several birth defects in Kettleman City.

The State Department of Toxic Substances Control will hold a series of public meetings before it makes the final decision to move approve or deny the permits for expansion. It held the first of its meetings on Wednesday at the Kettleman City Elementary School.

"A lot of people say why don't we move? Well, we were here before the toxic dump." Maricela Mares-Alatorre said.

Mares-Alatorre has lived in Kettleman City for 35 years and is a member of two environmental groups opposed to the expansion. She and several protestors showed up to Wednesday's meeting and began questioning landfill officials about public health concerns and the company's history of code violations.

The landfill has had more than 70 violations since the 1983. The most recent was last year after the state discovered it failed to report some spills. Waste Management Inc. paid nearly $312,000 in fees.

Brian Johnson with DTSC says all of that was taken into consideration before the draft permit was issue. The nature, severity and response of each violation were weighed.

"In the same token we feel very confident in the decision we made. It's made in science, it's made in one of the most extensive series of investigations," Johnson said.

If the landfill is allowed to expand, Waste Management Inc. estimates the county will get $1.5 million dollars each year in fees. It also projects a $17.5 billion dollar economic impact for the community. The company also promises to put in hundreds of thousands of dollars in community improvements.

"We run a well-ran facility. It's a needed facility in California?where would this waste go, if our site does not exist?" said Lilly Quiroa, a spokeswoman for Waste Management Inc.

"I think when they're offering you a golden apple and it's so easy within reach you don't strive for other resources and I don't think communities go under because they don't have a CChem-waste," Mares-Alatorre said.

The DTSC will hold a formal meeting on the issue on August 27th at the Kettleman City Elementary School. It will also accept public comments until October 7th. DTSC hopes to make a decision by the end of the year.


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