Kettleman City residents may get more help with air and water pollution issues
August 16, 2016
• State agrees to make improvements
• “This highlights the perseverance of community residents”
The state government has agreed to improve or start public health programs, asthma intervention activities, clean water and air monitoring in Kettleman City and make a commitment to providing information in Spanish under an agreement with California Rural Legal Assistance Inc. CRLA was representing El Pueblo para el Aire y Agua Limpia de Kettleman City in the negotiations.
Called a first of its kind settlement with the California Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Toxic Substances Control, the agreement establishes a new statewide commitment to public participation and language access policies when expansion and renewal permits are sought for hazardous waste sites.
The agreement provides that the state permitting procedures will take into account the special environmental risks found in vulnerable rural communities and conduct better coordination with other local and state agencies.
This case started when El Pueblo and Greenaction challenged the 2014 Kettleman Hills Facility hazardous waste plant permit renewal with the Department of Toxic Substances Control, a regulatory arm of the state. The challenge was denied and a complaint was then filed with the U.S. EPA Office of Civil Rights against CalEPA and DTSC.
“This highlights the perseverance of community residents and the state's willingness to work directly with them,” says CRLA Northern Regional Director of the Community Equity Initiative Marisol Aguilar. “It is a model settlement, which will help similarly situated communities statewide while at the same time addressing some of the major concerns Kettleman City residents live with daily. We look forward to seeing the terms of the settlement become a reality."
Ilene Jacobs, CRLA's director of Litigation, Advocacy and Training, calls it a “very significant settlement agreement for the Kettleman City community and for other vulnerable communities facing toxic waste permitting decisions. We are very impressed with how seriously the state is taking their obligations.”
Kettleman City is in Kings County. A substantial percentage of Kettleman City residents speak only Spanish. Waste Management Inc. through its subsidiary Chemical Waste Management Inc., operates a hazardous waste disposal facility three miles from the city limits.
The state approved a modification to the permit in May 2014 expanding the KHF hazardous landfill over community objections.