Southern California environment news and trends

California plans to cut toxic waste in half by 2025

Toxic Town Fine

Reed Saxon/AP

FILE - In this Dec. 8, 2009 file photo trucks haul material to the Waste Management landfill site just outside Kettleman City, Calif. Federal officials say they have levied about $1 million in penalties on the operator of the massive toxic waste dump in Central California for failure to properly dispose of waste at its landfill.

California  dumps a million tons of hazardous waste in landfills each year. Now the head of the state's Department of Toxic Substances Control says she wants to cut that amount in half within a dozen years. 

Debbie Raphael says that over the next year, regulators will meet with the waste management industry, environmentalists, and communities that host toxic dumps. Raphael says they'll discuss ways to clean up toxics on site, along with other alternatives to moving contaminated soil from one place to another.

California has some of the toughest hazardous waste rules in the country. But it ships around a third of its toxic waste to other less regulated locales.

Raphael announced the effort at the same time her agency released a draft permit that would allow for the expansion of a controversial hazardous waste dump in Kettleman City, in central California.

Community groups and consumer advocates say the call to cut the state's toxic waste is an effort to distract attention from the Kettleman City dump, whose owners have paid more than a million dollars in penalties in recent years. But the federal Environmental Protection Agency backs California's move to greatly reduce its toxic waste, calling it a bold step.

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