Hazardous Waste Dump Expansion Controversy

Fresno, CA Protestors shouting in Spanish, "What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now."

Holding photographs of babies with birth defects the group of about 50 disrupted the meeting of the Kings County Planning Commission. Despite the shouting, supporters of Waste Management Corporations proposal to expand its hazardous waste facility continued addressing the commission.

The most vocal of the protestors, was escorted out of the meeting and off the premises by law enforcement officers.

The protestors came because they fear toxic substances from the dump could be responsible for what they believe is a cluster of babies born with cleft palates in the small town of Kettleman City, a few miles from the site.

Brad Angel, the Executive Director of a group called Green Action believes King County is not interested in finding out what's causing the birth defects.

"They haven't tested the water, the air or the soil and yet they are in a mad rush to approve and ram through this toxic dump expansion to further put the people of Kettleman at risk." Angel said.

Angel claims 5 of the 20 babies born in Kettleman City between 2007 and 2008 were born with cleft palates and other birth defects which he believes can be related to exposure to toxic waste. Angel says three of the children died.

Waste Management denies responsibility for the birth defects. Plant manager Bob Henry maintains the facility is safe for the community, and his employees.

"I'm not aware of one employee to have a child with a birth defect." Henry told the commission members.

Company spokesperson Kit Cole says the facility is a safe and secure place to dispose of hazardous waste, and is under constant state and federal scrutiny.

"We are one of the most regulated businesses in the state and we are regularly inspected by all those folks and pass with flying colors." Cole said.

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