Toxic Waste Landfill in Kettleman City, USA


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
NameToxic Waste Landfill in Kettleman City, USA
CountryUnited States of America
SiteKettleman City
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Waste Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Specific CommoditiesPCBs, Benzene
Industrial waste
Chemical products
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsChemical 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
Project Area (in hectares)4
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population1,500-2,000
Start Date1979
End Date17/09/1993
Company Names or State EnterprisesWaste Management, Inc (WM) from United States of America
Relevant government actorsCalifornia EPA; California Department of Toxic Substances Control; Kings County; California Waste Management Board
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersEl Pueblo para el Aire y Agua Limpio (People for Clean Air and Water); Green Action for Health and Environmental Justice.
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
International ejos
Local ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment 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
OtherBirth malformations and leukemia
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (victory for environmental justice)
Application of existing regulations
Project cancelled
Withdrawal of company/investment
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.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 and Materials

Kay, Jane (1992), 'The Kettleman City Story' EPA Journal 18(1):47-48

Cole, Luke W. "Struggle of Kettleman City: Lessons for the Movement, The." Md. J. Contemp. Legal Issues 5 (1994): 67.

Bullard, Robert D. "In our backyards." EPA J. 18 (1992): 11.


Sahagun, Louis. "A Toxic Battleground." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 25 Nov. 2012. Web. 10 May 2014. .
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Montanez, Rick. "Kettleman City Landfill Renews Toxic Waste Debate." ABC Owned Television Stations. N.p., 18 Sept. 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. .
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Leslie, Jacques. "What's Killing the Babies of Kettleman City?" Mother Jones. N.p., July 2010. Web. 10 May 2014. .
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Grossi, Mark. "" Kettleman City Toxic Landfill Fight Might Turn on Finances. N.p., 20 July 2013. Web. 10 May 2014. .
[click to view]

Media Links

Youtube Video: Kettleman City Action Against Chem Waste PCB's. Kettleman City has been struggling against the Mega-Waste facility for decades. Over fifteen years ago they beat the proposed incinerator, today they fight the importation of the multi-tons of the toxin PCB.
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Youtube Video: Toxic Town Fights Landfill Expansion. The largest hazardous waste landfill on the West Coast is trying to expand, but the tiny town it sits next to, is fighting the plan. A cluster of birth defects in Kettleman City, California has stirred up fear and frustration. Activists have been fighting the landfill for years, but the waste company claims it's safe.
[click to view]

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

Kettleman City residents show crosses of children lost to birth defects. (Photo: Cody Nesper)
[click to view]

Other CommentsThis 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
Meta Information
ContributorAlejandro Colsa Pérez, [email protected], University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment
Last update08/07/2015