FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) said they have finalized a permit that will allow Chemical Waste Management Inc. to expand their capacity by five million cubic yards.
The DTCS said along with the expansion, they have strengthened environmental safeguards and increased reporting and public information requirements. They said the facility is currently operating near capacity.
Deborah Raphael, director of the California Department of Toxic Substances, said Wednesday that the Kettleman Hills landfill can grow to 15 million cubic yards, marking a 50 percent expansion.
"This decision protects public health and provides California with a safe disposal facility," said DTSC's Director Debbie Raphael. "We conducted a comprehensive review of the permit application and the facility's history. We considered a tremendous amount of public input and ensured all needed safeguards are in place. We have looked at this permit application from every angle over a five-year period to ensure it is the right decision."
The California Environmental Protection Agency said the approval came after 23 public meetings, interview sessions with people who live nearby the facility, and consideration of more than 5,500 comments. They said the public comment played a key role in the final permit conditions that include enhanced air monitoring, expanded sampling and analysis of liquids collected underground, stricter diesel emission standards for trucks, and increased inspections.
People who live nearby have said the landfill creates a toxic environment. They also claim several babies have been born with birth defects, including cleft palates. An Environmental Protection Agency study found the level of cancer causing chemicals was too low to harm residents in Kettleman City.
The landfill is near the farming community of Kettleman City off Interstate 5 midway between Sacramento and Los Angeles. It's one of two hazardous waste landfills operating in California, and the largest in the West.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.