Toxic waste dump causing birth defects in Kettleman City

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AP Photo

California Highway 41 is the main street of Kettleman City, Calif., seen Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2009. The tiny farm town is home to the largest toxic waste dump in the West. Chemical Waste Management, which wants to increase the size of one part of the dump and build another section. Pointing to an unusually high number of birth defects and infant deaths recently, area activists are asking Kings County to reject the expansion of the 1,600-acre facility.

Hundreds of residents in Central California are awaiting a decision from their county supervisors today over whether a large toxic waste dump can expand. Residents say they suffer unusually high rates of asthma and cancer.

It’s the largest such dump in the West, taking in about 400 truckloads of waste a day.

The dump lies near Kettleman City, a mostly Spanish-speaking farming community near Interstate 5. Between late 2007 and late 2008, 20 children were born in Kettleman City.

Five of them had a cleft in their lips or palate – the normal rate in California is one in every 800 births.

Residents blame the toxic chemicals from the dump, but the company that operates the dump – Chemical Waste – maintains there could be other causes, such as pesticides that are sprayed on agricultural fields.

The company has offered to pay for a health study, but residents are leery. They’ve asked Kings County supervisors to deny the company’s request to expand from the current 16-hundred acres.

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