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Toxic Waste Landfill in Kettleman City, Calif. A case of environmental racism. USA

In 1979, without informing Kettleman City's residents, a toxic dump owned by Chemical Waste Management - the world's largest waste disposal company - was established 3.5 miles from the town.


Kings County is a county in California’s San Joaquin Valley whose population is about sixty-five percent white that mostly lives around the county seat of Hanford. Kettleman City is a little farmworker community of 1,100 residents, where ninety-five percent of them are Latino, located in the southwest side of the county, 32 miles from Hanford.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Toxic Waste Landfill in Kettleman City, Calif. A case of environmental racism. USA
Country:United States of America
State or province:California
Location of conflict:Kettleman City
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Specific commodities:Asbestos
Industrial waste
PCBs, Benzene
Chemical products
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Chemical waste disposal and treatment site with a capacity of 5.7 million cubic yards (and it's full), expanding an extra million cubic yards. Proposed incinerator: 50,000-100,000 tons of hazardous waste a year.

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Project area:600
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:1,500-2,000
Start of the conflict:1979
End of the conflict:17/09/1993
Company names or state enterprises:Waste Management, Inc (WM) from United States of America
Relevant government actors:California EPA; California Department of Toxic Substances Control; Kings County; California Waste Management Board
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:El Pueblo para el Aire y Agua Limpio (People for Clean Air and Water); Green Action for Health and Environmental Justice.
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
International ejos
Local ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Public campaigns
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Deaths
Other Health impactsBirth malformations and leukemia
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Application of existing regulations
Project cancelled
Withdrawal of company/investment
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:After filling a lawsuit at the Sacramento County Superior Court, the judge ruled that the EIR had not sufficiently analyzed the toxic waste incinerator's impacts on air quality and on agriculture; and, most importantly, that the people of Kettleman City had not been meaningfully included in the permitting process. On september 17, 1993, Chem Waste announced it was withdrawing its application to construct the toxic waste incinerator. However, and even after been fined $1.5 million for polution, the landfill keeps operating and a recent permit has been released (July 2, 2013) allowing Chem Waste to increase the capacity of the hazardous waste landfill. There have been public demonstrations and rallies against this increase in capacity
Sources & Materials

2,- The Kettelman Hills Facility - the company's view
[click to view]

1. Greenaction. Stop Toxic Waste Dumping & Pollution in Kettleman City
[click to view]

Grossi, Mark. "" Kettleman City Toxic Landfill Fight Might Turn on Finances. N.p., 20 July 2013. Web. 10 May 2014. .
[click to view]

CLUI. "The Center for Land Use Interpretation." The Center for Land Use Interpretation. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 May 2014. .
[click to view]

CLUI. "The Center for Land Use Interpretation." The Center for Land Use Interpretation. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 May 2014. .
[click to view]

Leslie, Jacques. "What's Killing the Babies of Kettleman City?" Mother Jones. N.p., July 2010. Web. 10 May 2014. .

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Youtube Video: Birth defects linked to pollution in Kettleman City, California. Uploaded on Aug 29, 2011

In three years, 11 babies have been born with serious birth defects caused by pollution in Kettleman City, California. Univision
[click to view]

Protests to Stop the Expansion of Chemical Waste Management’s Kettleman Hills Hazardous Waste & PCB Landfill. Source: GreenAction
[click to view]

Other comments:This is one of the top 40 influential environmental justice cases in the United States identified from a national survey of environmental activists, scholars and other leaders by graduate students at the University of Michigan working with Prof. Paul Mohai.
Meta information
Contributor:Alejandro Colsa Pérez, [email protected], University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment
Last update16/08/2023
Conflict ID:23
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