Even though last June state officials declared that birth defects were on the decline, the problems are far from over in Kettleman City, located in central California. In fact, this coming summer, they are poised to grow larger.
At present, Kettleman City is near the largest hazardous waste landfill west of the Mississippi River. It is also surrounded by large agricultural fields that are routinely sprayed with pesticides, and receives diesel smoke from the nearby highways. The poor air quality has resulted in an increase in asthma and other lung problems, and Kettleman City and surrounding towns have been affected by tainted drinking water. In addition, residents continue to insist that the toxic mixture that affects their town has resulted in an unusually high level of birth defects and miscarriages.
This summer, treated human sewage from more than five million people in Los Angeles County may be delivered to farmland nearby to be composted. "When somebody flushes a toilet in Los Angeles County, it will end up in Kings County," one observer lamented.
Kettleman City became the focal point after residents of Kern County -- the previous recipients of Los Angeles waste -- passed a ban on receiving human waste. The ban was passed several years ago, but has been tied up in court. If the court upholds it, Kettleman City becomes the next logical location. Up to 500,000 tons of waste could be composted each year.
The Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts state that they will do everything they can to prevent the waste from further polluting the landscape. For instance, the $120 million project would use a special fabric to trap ozone-making volatile organic compounds on huge composting piles, and ensure that biosolid mixing will be done in a building, not out in the open. Not surprisingly, the residents of Kettleman City are not persuaded.