Environment, Health & Safety, Regulations & Compliance

Kettleman Residents Protest to Air Board

From FresnoBee.com, Mark Grossi, The Fresno Bee, 15 Dec 2011.

A dozen Kettleman City residents protested at the Valley air board meeting Thursday, saying officials didn’t give the town a real chance to talk about a permit renewal for the largest toxic-waste landfill west of the Mississippi.

The farmworker town of 1,500 has been battling for years against the nearby Waste Management landfill, which residents suspect is connected to birth defects, illnesses and deaths in their community.

The renewal of the landfill’s federal operating permit, called a Title V permit, gives the public a chance to make comments and ask questions about the landfill. The landfill is regulated as a major source of ozone-making pollution, greenhouse gases and hazardous air pollutants.

The San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District sent public-meeting notices about the renewal to only two people in the town of 1,500 residents, said activist Maricela Mares-Alatorre, who received one of the notices.

“It’s a joke, but it’s not funny,” she told the board. “We have a right to participate.”

Air district officials replied that they went beyond legal requirements for notification, which include publishing it in a local newspaper and notifying anyone who has expressed interest.

The district also sent notices to five organizations that have worked with residents: Greenaction; Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment; El Pueblo Para El Air y Agua Limpio; Kids Protecting Our Planet and California Communities Against Toxics.

The district held a 7 p.m. meeting Dec. 8 in Kettleman City to discuss the permit, but residents boycotted it in protest over the notification process.

Mares-Alatorre said the district should have posted a notice in Spanish in the town’s post office. The majority of Kettleman City residents speak only Spanish, do not read English newspapers and do not have computers to see Spanish postings on the district’s website, she said.

“We live in a place that is contaminated with diesel, bad water and a toxic dump,” she said. “It’s not acceptable for any public agency to notify us this way.”

The Title V permit is required of all major pollution sources, district officials said. Requirements usually involve monitoring, reporting and record keeping.

Air district officials said such permits often become an administrative exercise in California. The state already regulates such pollution sources with some of the country’s most stringent rules.

The reporter can be reached at mgrossi@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6316.
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Source: FresnoBee.com, “Kettleman residents protest to air board” by Mark Grossi, The Fresno Bee, 15 Dec 2011.

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