Tuesday 23 November 2010

Birth Defects Multiply Near Toxic Waste Dump. Close It? Or Double Its Size?

In Kettleman City, a low-income farm town located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, there are between 30 and 64 births each year. So it's startling that in the last three years, at least 11 babies born there have suffered severe birth defects, including cleft palates. Worse, one was stillborn, and three died.
Now, owners of the toxic waste dump that's been connected to the tragedy want to double its size—and the community is raising hell.
According to a recent story in Mother Jones, there are actually a confluence of factors at play in this staggering figure, as well as an influx of other health issues, such as asthma, suffered by town residents. Locals are exposed to a litany of chemicals from the 100 trucks that drive by daily on the interstate highway, for instance, while the city’s two municipal wells contain arsenic and benzene.
But it's the waste dump that's raised the biggest red flag. In 2009, the site accepted 356,000 tons of hazardous waste, with asbestos, pesticides and other highly toxic chemicals mixed in—not to mention about 11,000 tons of materials contaminated with PCBs, a class of substances now banned from use because it's been connected to cancer and (you guessed it) birth defects.
The fact that this dump is able to operate at all is bad enough. The fact that Waste Management, Inc., the company reaping big bucks off the toxic site, wants to nearly double its size is downright reprehensible.
Standing in their way are some loud local protesters, about 100 of whom gathered last Saturday in nearby Wasco to plead with U.S. EPA to prevent the site's expansion. “We are facing a health crisis," one resident said.
EPA representatives who attended the protest said they’d see what they could do. Considering the tragedy that’s taken hold of Kettleman City, it’s pretty obvious what they should do.
Sign this petition to tell EPA authorities to prevent an expansion of the toxic waste dump. Kettleman City has already suffered enough.
And if you want to learn more from the three groups involved in fighting this dump, you can contact them below:
-- El Pueblo Para El Aire y Agua Limpio/People for Clean Air and Water: Maricela Mares Alatorre,alatmig@netzero.net
-- Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice: http://www.greenaction.org/ and greenaction@greenaction.org
-- The Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment: http://www.crpe-ej.org/crpe/ and   lrichter@crpe-ej.org

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