Santa Monica, CA – Consumer Watchdog today praised the Department of Toxic Substances Control for 72 citations of Chemical Waste Management Inc. for failing to report spills of hazardous waste at its hazardous waste and PCB landfill over a four-year period, but said now the department should follow through with a permit denial. The department referred the case to the state Attorney General’s Office. If the company is charged $25,000 for each violation, the fines could total $1.8 million.
“It’s about time the DTSC cracked down on this serial violator of environmental laws,” said consumer advocate Liza Tucker. “But based on the company’s appalling record, the DTSC should deny Waste Management a new permit to expand its operations.”
Room at the hazardous waste landfill began to run out in 2009 and sources say the company can now accept a few truckloads of waste a day, down from a few hundred a day at its peak. The company is waiting for permits from the DTSC and other state regulators to expand the facility. “Unfortunately, even a fine of $1.8 million won’t drive this big company to change its ways,” said Tucker. “We’ve seen that fines have become just a cost of doing business. What will get through is a permit denial. California law clearly states that the DTSC has every right to put serial environmental violators out of business."
Greenaction for Environmental Health and Justice and residents of Kettleman City have been battling the expansion of the landfill for years. In 2007 and 2008, the groups discovered a number of birth defects, including cleft lip and cleft palate, as well as infant deaths. They say miscarriages and cases of cancer in Kettleman City located in the San Joaquin Valley in a low income Latino community of 1,500 people continue. Just a few days ago, a two-year-old died of leukemia, Greenaction reports.
Several years ago, the California EPA and Department of Health investigated and found that there was nothing unusual about the rate of birth defects in Kettleman City between 1987 and 2008. Greenaction says that the state withheld the true number of birth defects from the public and testing of emissions was flawed because testing took place well after the rash of defects first surfaced and when dumping was down by about 90 percent.
Chemical Waste Management’s violations of environmental laws include a settlement with the DTSC and Cal EPA for one million dollars in 2010 for not properly treating waste before disposal for five years. U.S. EPA also fined the company $300,000 for PCB contamination of soil. State regulators fined the company $46,000 last year for failing to report two spills. In this case, the DTSC claims the spills were “small,” and posed to threat to workers or the community. Greenaction says if the DTSC is basing that on company “self-monitoring,” then the data cannot be trusted.