Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Another complaint about hazardous waste site expansion

My Sunday story covered the money aspects of expanding the hazardous waste site near Kettleman City. One piece of the story just didn’t fit, and I mention it here because it illustrates how contentious the process has been.

Activists, who have long battled the nearby Waste Management Inc. landfill, say they didn’t like the Kings County-appointed committee that recommended many of the financial benefits on tap for Kettleman.

Among the benefits Waste Management agreed to provide if the expansion is approved: paying off a $552,000 debt on the town water system and donating $450,000 for school improvement.

Paying off the water system debt is no small favor for Kettleman City.  It will allow the state to provide $8 million for a water treatment plant — many consider it a leap forward for Kettleman City.

But the activists were rankled because there was only one Kettleman City resident on the committee.

The list included three people from Hanford and one each from Avenal, Laton and Lemoore. The county stands to gain $1.5 million annually in fees if the state allows expansion of the landfill.

The committee was stacked so that county approval of the landfill expansion was inevitable, the activists say.

“It was a joke,” said resident Maricela Mares Alatorre of the People for Clean Air and Water. “Where was the understanding of Kettleman City’s problems?”

Alatorre is also a full-time employee of Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice, a national advocacy group with an office in San Francisco. She says activists will do whatever they can to stop the expansion, including filing suit.

For their part, Kings County officials said they had problems filling out the local committee that suggested the financial benefits for Kettleman City.

In the end, Supervisor Richard Valle said he was able to add Avenal resident Alvaro Preciado, who has family in Kettleman City and cares deeply about the issues in the town.


Interested Observer says:

Important facts left out of story: Maricela Mares and Maria Saucedo are employees of Greent Action; Maria Saucedo is not a resident of Kettleman City; Maria Saucedo has given birth to more children.
Mark, did you ask Maricela why she didn’t apply to be on the LAC? Mark, I find your reporting very one sided.

Mark Grossi says:

Here is what Maricela Mares Alatorre has told me:

She and Maria Saucedo are employees of Greenaction, Altatorre full time, Saucedo part-time. Alatorre volunteered 20 years for Greenaction before getting a job with them.

Alatorre basically grew up in Kettleman City and still lives there.

Saucedo lived there 17 years before moving to Avenal in 2008. She was eight months pregnant with the child who had birth defects.

Alatorre said she found out about the local committee or LAC at the end of the process. She said the more appropriate question might be: Why wasn’t she contacted about joining the committee in the beginning?

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