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EPA to review oversight of toxic waste

January 27, 2010 |  2:14 pm

Mother and child

In a new focus on environmental justice issues, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to evaluate a Bush-era rule that could remove federal oversight of companies that generate and recycle 1.5 million tons of hazardous waste each year.

Much of that waste, generated by steel, chemical and pharmaceutical plants, ends up in dumps located near low-income, minority communities.

On Tuesday, the EPA launched a probe of birth defects and other health problems in the San Joaquin Valley farming community of Kettleman City, Calif., located about three miles west of the only chemical waste facility in the state permitted to accept carcinogenic PCBs.

The EPA on Thursday will discuss its planned analysis of the Bush-era exemptions with the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council in New Orleans.

"This is the first time the agency will conduct a comprehensive environmental analysis, although these reviews were first ordered by President Bill Clinton," Abigail Dillen, an attorney with the environmental group Earthjustice, said in a statement.

-- Louis Sahagun

Photo: Maria Saulcedo sits next to a memorial to her daughter Ashley, who died at the age of 11 months. Five babies, including Ashley, were born with cleft palates in Kettleman City over a 14-month period, and some residents blame a nearby toxic waste dump. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times