On Friday Dec. 6th, Kern County Superior Court Judge, J. Eric Bradshaw, ruled against Kern County, CA and its residents, in favor of Community Recycling and Resource Recovery. The facility can continue operations as usual and is no longer responsible for a $2.3 million fine in connection with the deaths of two workers in 2011.
The two young workers were killed from hydrogen sulfide exposure while working at the facility on Oct. 12, 2011. Over a month later, on Nov. 15, 2011 the Kern County Board of Supervisor levied the $2.3 million dollar fine and revoked Community Recycling’s operating permit.
Apparently, “the decision by Kern County Supervisors to quickly close down a Lamont-area composting facility after the deaths of two men violated due process” according to the Bakersfield Californian.
Two young workers were killed from hydrogen sulfide exposure while working at the facility on Oct. 12, 2011. Over a month later, on Nov. 15, 2011 the Kern County Board of Supervisor levied the $2.3 million dollar fine and revoked Community Recycling’s operating permit. Although it’s important to respect due process, how long can we be expected to wait on it while many more young workers’ lives may be at stake? Especially considering Cal-OSHA findings, that five times, between Oct. 12, 2011 and Nov. 15, 2011, the company violated an agency order that no one come within six feet of any openings or entries to the site’s storm drain system, where the two brothers were found unconscious. Does the time required for due process put more workers and community members at risk?
It’s becoming more and more apparent that this facility is not operating in the safest manner and does not want to cooperate with the agencies or elected officials. “The bottom line is, I just can’t believe this company anymore” according to Kern County Supervisor, Mike Maggard. So how can we ensure the safety of the workers and the community?! Sal Partida, the President of the Committee for a Better Arvin has a great point, “These innocent people, they had no idea that they were going to go to work that day and die,” and yet the risk still isn’t eliminated.
The Committee for a Better Arvin, in collaboration with Global Community Monitor and the Center for Race Poverty and the Environment, have been collecting air samples near the facility with the Bucket Brigade. Sample results continue to show a presence of hydrogen sulfide, the same deadly gas that killed the two workers. This gas is not only a danger to the workers, but the samples confirm that that same gas is escaping from the facility into the community and putting the residents’ health at risk.
Long-term exposure to hydrogen sulfide is associated with an elevated incidence of respiratory infections, irritation of the eye, nose and throat, coughing, breathlessness, nausea, headache, and mental health impacts, including depression.
Yet, the facility can continue business as usual and is no longer responsible for the $2.3 million fine, because of due process. One month is not an adequate amount of time for the company to defend itself for killing two workers, violating OSHA orders and repeatedly misleading the Kern County Board of Supervisors? Case closed?!?!
Well not exactly, considering we’ve got a pretty fierce group of activists in the region. After taking a few days to lick our wounds, we dusted ourselves off and got back to work. If the County has a “lots of options” we’ll be there, expressing our concerns and fighting for justice. Where is due process for the two workers that were killed at the facility? Is there one set of rules for the corporations and a different set for the workers and community residents?