I’m sure it must cheer Kettleman City families that Kings County has been given $158, 000 to develop a program to improve birth outcomes using grant money from the company that runs the hazardous waste dump three miles out of town. Houston-based Waste Management Inc., the parent company of Chem Waste, wants their PR donation to create a two-year “preconception program”
for women in the county, said Keith Winkler, King County’s health director.
“Company employees are part of the Kettleman City community, prompting the company to seek ways to help it.” Aw, that’s sweet.I am told that only two Kettleman City residents are employed by Chem Waste Management, Inc. It’s not exactly a company town.
The county will develop educational materials to be handed out at schools, health fairs and to doctors and health providers in the community to make available to patients. These pamphlets and educational materials will educate women and adolescents about how their health can affect any future babies. Things like not smoking and drinking, safe sex, and the like. These are startling new health discoveries that I’m sure will be news to Kettleman City families.
Better that they not breathe the air in Kettleman City, track home pesticides–maybe not drink town water contaminated by arsenic and benzene– and most of all avoid living near the biggest hazardous waste dump west of the Mississippi. That’s a good start. So is a consideration of the cumulative effects of each independent factor like the pollution of air, water, and soil. But that is very, very hard to study, in all fairness.
Blame the Victims
The California EPA report initially implied mothers’ lifestyle may have caused the birth defects, but were forced to back down from blaming the victims in their December 2010 report to admit the mothers led a healthy lifestyle.
You must look at the self-congratulatory rewrite of this report presented on Chem Waste’s website , entitled Kettleman City Facts, which dismisses the concerns of residents that the birth defects could be tied to the waste dump at their doors.
Their facts show up at the top of every page you search related to Kettleman City as an ad. Tell you something? An ad? That must have cost some money. So did the $300,000 fine levied on Chem Waste just three months ago for improper disposal of PCBs.
But consider this, State regulators did not monitor air quality at the toxic dump in Kettleman City during a period when there was a spike in the number of area babies born with birth defects. According to an email obtained from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, state regulators suspended independent air monitoring for PCBs and pesticides at the Kettleman Hills waste facility in April 2008.
John Sepulvado from Capital Public Radio , has pointed out that the state investigation relied heavily on the dump’s operators for information—hardly an unbiased source. But then every study can be accused of some kind of bias.
You sure wouldn’t want to find bad news. Revenues from Waste Management’s franchise taxes to Kings County amounted to more than $1.6 million last year, and the company paid another $380,000 in property tax, making it one of the county’s largest taxpayers. Again in fairness, Central Valley county governments are hurting. Such a major contributor to the county’s cash register gets a voice at the table. Their voices are certainly louder than the town’s mostly poor farmworker population. That’s how government works, folks.
I was interested to see that Chem Waste did its own study, at a cost of $800.000 which found that the level of PCBs surrounding the dump was just as good–or bad–as the contamination found in rural areas across the country. Studying just one component of what lies festering in the dump wouldn’t allay my fears.
There will be a rally to support Kettleman City families and keep the pressure on EPA and California EPA March 15, 2011, at 7 p.m. For more information contact El Pueblo & Greenaction (559) 583-0800 & (415) 284-5600
If you’ve read this far you probably care about what happens to Kettleman City residents. Please come. Bring your own water. Kettleman City water is unsafe.