In 1997 the Kettleman City community group El Pueblo Para el Aire y Agua Limpia/People for Clean Air and Water helped co-found Greenaction and El Pueblo members continue to serve on our Board of Directors and staff today. Greenaction has worked with Kettleman City since the very first day of existence as an organization, and with El Pueblo Para El Aire y Agua Limpia/People for Clean Air and Water and the youth group Youth Protecting Our Planet we have continued the fight for environmental health and justice in Kettleman City for over two decades.
Kettleman City is a predominantly Spanish-speaking, Latino farmworker community in the heart of California’s San Joaquin Valley. Located in Kings County, and unincorporated, Kettleman City and its residents have suffered from decades of environmental, social and economic injustice, and racial discrimination at the hands of county, state and federal government agencies and officials – and dirty industries.
The community is impacted by multiple sources of pollution, including Chemical Waste Management’s Kettleman Hills landfill, the largest hazardous waste landfill in the west where PCBs and garbage are also dumped. Other pollution includes pesticides, drinking water contaminated with benzene and arsenic, massive diesel truck traffic on Highway 41 and Interstate 5, toxic contamination from old oilfield operations, sewage sludge shipped from Los Angeles to nearby farms, and a former PG&E site.
The State of California’s CalEnviroScreen 3.0 ranks Kettleman City as one of the communities in the state most at risk from pollution due to environmental, health and other socio-economic indicators.
Kettleman City is one of the birthplaces of the environmental justice movement, when in the late 1980’s residents rose up and defeated Chem Waste’s plan to build a toxic waste incinerator next to the landfill.
Campaigns and Projects
Implementation of Historic Title VI Civil Rights Settlement of the Civil Rights complaint filed by Greenaction and El Pueblo of Kettleman City against the California EPA and state Department of Toxic Substances Control
In 2016, El Pueblo and Greenaction filed a Title VI Civil Rights Complaint against the California EPA and state Department of Toxic Substances Control in response to racial discrimination in their permit process and decision to expand the Chem Waste Kettleman Hills hazardous waste landfill.
In August 2016, after seven months of federal mediation, we reached a historic and precedent-setting settlement with the state agencies that required the state to:
- Comply with state and federal civil rights laws and policies in their permit and regulatory decisions statewide
- Comply with language access laws and policies to ensure that non-English speaking residents can engage in meaningful public participation in CalEPA and DTSC processes
- Develop and adopt new civil rights and language access policies
- Adopt improved criteria for considering company violations and the cumulative impacts of pollution in DTSC permit decisions
- Prohibit the use of “hostile environments” such as police intimidation and harassment at public hearings
- Use its best effort to finally bring clean drinking water to Kettleman City after decades of delays
- Assist Greenaction and El Pueblo in securing support for a community health survey, biomonitoring of residents, and air monitoring programs
Greenaction and El Pueblo continue to work to ensure the state complies with all aspects of the settlement agreement now and into the future, as they have complied with some conditions and violated or not yet implemented others. The struggle continues!
Clean Drinking Water Campaign
Kettleman City residents have suffered with toxic contaminated drinking water for decades, and with Greenaction’s help are fighting to finally achieve their human right to clean water. The groundwater is contaminated with naturally occurring arsenic, as well as benzene from old oilfield operations.
When El Pueblo of Kettleman City and Greenaction settled our civil rights complaint against the California EPA and Department of Toxic Substances Control in August of 2016, the state committed to using their best efforts to expedite the clean water project promised for years. Plagued by delays and bureaucracy, the new water treatment plant that would bring water from the nearby California Aqueduct has been stalled. Greenaction and El Pueblo succeeded in pressuring the state to provide bottled water to homes for drinking purposes, but kids still bathe and eat food cooked in toxic water. Greenaction, El Pueblo and the Kettleman City youth group Youth Protecting Our Planet are demanding clean water now! No More Delays!
Stop the Chemical Waste Management Kettleman Hills Hazardous Waste Landfill
In the late 1980’s, residents rose up and defeated the infamous plan by Chemical Waste Management to build a hazardous waste incinerator at their Kettleman Hills landfill. This struggle and victory helped spark the environmental justice movement across the country and even in Mexico!
Since that historic victory, Kettleman City residents let by El Pueblo, and backed by Greenaction, have continued to battle Chem Waste and all the government agencies that continue to let the company dump hazardous and solid waste – and PCBs – in the largest toxic landfill in the western US.
In 2007, El Pueblo and Greenaction protested and opposed plans by the USEPA to issue a permit renewal that would have allowed the company to keep dumping large quantities of PCBs, a highly toxic substance that is banned from being manufactured. PCBs are a reproductive toxin and cancer causing chemical. We stopped that permit renewal, and continue to fight its possible issuance by Trump’s EPA.
In 2009, Greenaction and El Pueblo discovered a large cluster of birth defects and infant deaths in Kettleman City occurred in a14-month period. Despite attempts by county and state officials to ignore and then cover-up the birth defect situation, Greenaction and El Pueblo brought this situation to national attention. While Greenaction does not know what caused the alarming spike in birth defects, we pointed out that disposal of PCBs at the toxic dump went up dramatically at the same time PCB monitors were turned off – and then birth defect problem erupted.
In 2016, Greenaction and El Pueblo filed a Title VI Civil Rights Complaint against California EPA and state Department of Toxic Substances Control in response to racial discrimination in their permit process and decision to expand the Chem Waste Kettleman Hills hazardous waste landfill. In August 2016 we reached a historic and precedent-setting settlement with the state agencies that requires them to end racial discriminatory permit practices and provide meaningful opportunities for public participation including for the Spanish-speaking residents who have faced discrimination and police harassment when they speak out against the toxic dump.
Today we work to force the state to comply with all aspects of the civil rights settlement, and to oppose new permits for the hazardous waste landfill.
Community Air Monitoring and Air Quality Project
In November 2018, El Pueblo and Greenaction began the Kettleman
City Community Air Monitoring and Air Quality Project to expand our work educating, training and mobilizing residents to reduce air pollution in their overburdened community.
With a two-year grant provided by the California Air Resources Board under Assembly Bill 617, we are educating residents about the links between air pollution and health, teaching residents how to file pollution complaints online on the Kings IVAN website, conducting pilot air monitoring for Particulate Matter in and next to town, and engaging civically with government regulatory agencies and elected officials to reduce pollution.
We will conduct annual Kettleman City Community Health and Environmental Justice Fairs in the spring in the park.
As we continue our ongoing work with youth and young adults, we have expanded our Kettleman City Youth Environmental Justice Leadership Academy to a 12-week intensive program.
Diesel Education and Emissions Reduction Project
Located near the intersections of Interstate 5 and Highway 41, Kettleman City is heavily impacted by diesel emissions from the many thousands of trucks that pass by each day. Diesel pollution includes carcinogens and particulates that are linked to cancer, asthma and other respiratory illnesses.
In addition to the emissions from truck traffic and agricultural equipment, a big problem is the illegal and dangerous “idling” of diesel vehicles including trucks and busses. Idling refers to when a truck or bus is parked and not engaged in work activity, and emits pollutants harmful to drivers, residents, and the environment.
Greenaction, El Pueblo, and Youth Protecting Our Planet conduct periodic multi-month Diesel Education and Emissions Reduction Projects, engaging in outreach to truckers at diesel idling “hot spots” about the laws restricting diesel vehicle idling, and the health concerns. We also speak with local businesses that use diesel vehicles either for deliveries and the bigger freight transport companies located across the street from the residential area.
In the fall of 2018 we won a victory when the California Air Resources Board worked with us to post “No Diesel Idling” Signs at hot spots.
Our outreach to truckers and businesses, and the No Idling Signs, have been an effective way to reduce the illegal idling of diesel vehicles.
Kettleman City Community Garden
Despite being in the agricultural heartland of the San Joaquin Valley, residents have to travel 32 miles to the nearest grocery store. To attempt to begin to address the need for healthy foods (and grown without pesticides), El Pueblo and Greenaction have launched the Kettleman City Community Garden Project, with first planting expected in the spring or summer of 2019 as soon as clean water becomes a reality for Kettleman City.
The land was donated by a resident, and local businesses are donating equipment, fencing, and are plowing the land for the garden. Residents will share responsibilities, and are deciding what they will plant.
Kettleman City Youth Environmental Health and Justice Leadership Academy
Greenaction and El Pueblo have worked since 2006 to educate, mobilize and create youth environmental justice leaders in Kettleman City. In 2006, we mentored youth as they formed Kids Protecting Our Planet (KPOP), who played a very active and powerful role in the fight against the toxic waste disposal permit. Our youth work in Kettleman City continues and has expanded with the formation of Youth Protecting Our Planet (YPOP) who are active in all the campaigns in their community.
Greenaction and El Pueblo conduct ongoing youth leadership programs and trainings, and hold annual Kettleman City Youth Environmental Justice Leadership Academy programs where youth get classroom training and real life experience educating, organizing and a
End Pesticide Drift Campaign
Pesticides sprayed on agricultural fields next to homes in Kettleman City often drift into the neighborhood, exposing residents to dangerous pollutants that can cause cancer and other health problems. Greenaction and El Pueblo work to educate residents about the health risks from pesticide drift and how to file complaints with government if they witness or experience pesticide drift exposures.
Factsheets, Reports, Action Alerts and Flyers
- Kettleman City Environmental Justice Storytelling: Click here to listen to Maricela Mares Alatorre, Miguel Alatorre, and Bradley Angel share stories from the three decades of environmental justice struggles in Kettleman City, California.
- Kettleman City COVID-19 Relief Project video. Click here to watch.
- Read the InsideCalEPA news story “Equity Groups Urge CalEPA To Extend Civil Rights Pact To Meet Deadlines”
- Greenaction & El Pueblo letter to CalEPA & DTSC over Title VI Civil Rights Settlement Violations
- Title VI civil rights complaint
- Title VI Civil Rights Settlement Agreement – DTSC, CalEPA, Greenaction, El Pueblo
- CalEnviroScreen 3.0 Kettleman City fact sheet
- Diesel Idling fact sheets ( English | Español )
Announcements and Upcoming Events
Learn About the Surface Water Treatment Plant and What It Will Mean for You and Your Family
Meeting Time: October 16, 2019, Wednesday, 6:00 pm
Click here to view flyer (ENGLISH/SPANISH)