EPA admits it failed to follow up on Kettleman Hills violations
April 8, 2010
• Violations noted in 2007
• Waste Management says problem was minor and contained
Low levels of the organic chemical polychlorinated biphenyls, known as PCBs, were found by U.S. EPA inspectors inside a PCB storage and flushing building and a small area of soil adjacent to the storage building at the Kettleman Hills toxic waste disposal site operated by Waste Management Inc. in 2007.
But despite a “notice of violation” being filed, the EPA took no follow-up action, says EPA regional administrator Jared Blumenfeld, who took over the post in January. He has not said why the agency seemingly dropped the ball.
Waste Management Inc. (NYSE: WM) of Houston, Texas, says the problem was small, was contained and is being resolved.
“The inside of the building has already been cleaned according to EPA standards and the affected soil will be immediately cleaned to meet EPA requirements,” says Bob Henry, Waste Management’s senior district manager for the facility. “EPA also noted three paperwork violations which have already been addressed.”
Mr. Henry says recently completed monitoring of air, soil and vegetation at the site “has confirmed that PCBs stored and treated at the Kettleman Hills Facility have no impact on human health and the environment.”
A state investigation is continuing, says California EPA.
“We are conducting a comprehensive environmental exposure assessment into the soil, gas, water and air in Kettleman City. In this investigation, we are also looking at any evidence of PCB contamination,” says Cal/EPA Secretary Linda Adams.
“Simultaneously, Cal/EPA’s Department of Toxic Substances Control is also conducting a comprehensive investigation of the landfill itself as part of the permit process, and I have full confidence in their ability to conduct a thorough investigation,” she says.
PCB production was banned in the United States in 1979. The National Cancer Institute, the World Health Organization and other say the chemicals are suspected of being linked to cancer.
The roughly 1,600-acre Kettleman Hills site, the largest hazardous waste disposal facility west of the Mississippi, has been in the news because of birth defects being reported to half a dozen children whose families live or lived in Kettleman City, about four miles away.