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State to Study Kettleman City Pollution

Thursday, March 25, 2010

About one hundred people turned out Thursday night to hear state officials explain how they plan to conduct tests and do other research to determine if there are environmental factors leading to a high rate of birth defects in Kettleman City.

Residents marched into the meeting chanting slogans and demanding answers. But state officials came to tell them the search for answers is just getting underway. Sam Delson, of the California State Department of Environmental Protection promised a thorough probe.

"We take very seriously the birth defects and the deaths in this community and we're determined to do everything we can to find out if there's an environmental link. We're going to test the soil, monitor the air and test the water and do some modeling regarding pesticides."

Bradley Angel of the environmental group Greenaction has lead the quest to determine if pollution is responsible for at least ten babies born with birth defects in the town over the past three years. He believes state agencies have been concealing evidence.

"So we're really going to pressure them to come clean about what they know and to do a much better job about gathering information about the numbers of birth defects. They are really looking with their eyes closed it seems."

The state will see if agricultural chemicals, pesticides, naturally occurring arsenic in the drinking water and emissions from the nearby hazardous waste dump can be linked to birth defects. Bradley Angel believes radioactive waste has been illegally disposed of at the ChemWaste facility.

"We think that's pertinent to the environmental pollution that's affecting this community and may or may not be linked to what's causing kids to be born with birth defects and kids to be dying in this little town."

An official of the states Toxic Waste Division said the facility was getting extensive scrutiny, but would not comment on any investigation into radioactive waste dumping. Many at this meeting were frustrated to learn the study would be limited to looking for 28 chemicals that have been linked specifically to birth defects, and not other toxins.

The states study is expected to wrap up by the end of the year. State officials assured the crowd they would not allow any permits for expansion of the ChemWaste Dump to be issued until the study is finished.

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Tags:
environment, toxic waste, kettleman city, local, gene haagenson
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