By: Bradley Angel
In a major victory for the residents of the embattled Latino farmworker community of Kettleman City and their environmental justice allies, corporate giant Waste Management, parent company of Chemical Waste Management, has announced that it is dropping its controversial attempt to dump radioactive waste from the Santa Susana Field Laboratory at the Kettleman Hills hazardous waste landfill.
In a letter to Linda Adams, secretary of environmental protection for the California EPA, Robert Henry, senior district manager for Waste Management, wrote that “Waste Management’s Kettleman Hills Facility has voluntarily decided not to accept solid or hazardous wastes from any portion of the Santa Susana Field Lab because of the uncertainty and community concerns about levels of radioactive constituents in these materials.”
Waste Management’s decision came in response to three months of furious protest by residents and community groups such as El Pueblo Para El Aire y Agua Limpio/People for Clean Air and Water; Kids Protecting Our Planet; Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice; the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment (CRPE); the Committee to Bridge the Gap; and California Communities Against Toxics. Additional support came from dozens of environmental justice groups. The last straw apparently came on January 7 when attorneys with the CRPE sent Chemical Waste Management a Notice of El Pueblo’s Intent to Sue in response to the attempt to accept radioactive waste in violation of the company’s permits and federal law.
“This is a great victory for our community,” said Maricela Mares-Alatorre, Kettleman City resident and spokesperson for El Pueblo. “This proves that as long as the people are vigilant and not complacent, we can protect our community because the government won’t protect us.”
“This is a huge David versus Goliath victory for this small community getting dumped on by a giant polluter, especially when the government would not enforce their own laws to stop the dumping of radioactive waste,” said Bradley Angel, executive director of Greenaction. “Our next victory will be stopping the proposed expansion of the toxic waste dump.”