California approves expansion of toxic waste site

SCOTT SMITH, Associated Press
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FILE - This Dec. 8, 2009 file photo shows trucks hauling material to the Waste Management landfill site just outside Kettleman City, Calif. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)

FILE – This Dec. 8, 2009 file photo shows trucks hauling material to the Waste Management landfill site just outside Kettleman City, Calif. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — State officials on Wednesday approved a major expansion of a toxic waste landfill in Central California that residents say has caused birth defects in children.

The Kettleman Hills landfill can grow to 15 million cubic yards, marking a 50 percent expansion, said Deborah Raphael, director of the California Department of Toxic Substances.

Raphael and officials at Chemical Waste Management Inc. cite state reports that say there’s no link between the landfill and birth defects.

The decision on expansion came years after officials at Chemical Waste Management asked the state for permission to expand in 2008.

The site located nearly four miles from the farming community of Kettleman City gives California a much needed safe place to dispose of its hazardous waste, Raphael said.

“The expansion, we understand, is a deep concern to the families of Kettleman City,” Raphael said. “We did not make this decision lightly.”

Kettleman City is off Interstate 5 midway between Sacramento and Los Angeles. The landfill is one of two in California that accepts hazardous waste, and the largest in the West. It has been in operation for about 30 years.

The landfill disposes of municipal solid waste and hazardous waste, and officials said that it is operating near capacity. The expansion would give the landfill at least another eight years of life, Rafael said.

Critics blame Kettleman Hills for causing at least 11 birth defects in children raised nearby since 2007, but Waste Management officials point to state reports based on 25 years of analysis that they say prove there’s no link.

Rafael said that the state held 23 public meetings and considered 5,000 written comments over the past five years while eyeing the expansion.

The firm’s new permit also tightens environmental safeguards and public information requirements, officials said.

Opponents have until June 23 to appeal the state approval.

 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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