A new state policy regarding hazardous waste lawsuits could end up benefiting Kings County.
The Department of Toxic Substances Control is encouraging companies and individuals who settle hazardous waste litigation to direct up to 50 percent of any settlements toward projects in residential areas that are most burdened by environmental factors.
The most likely beneficiary of the new approach is Kettleman City. In the past, lawsuits have been filed on behalf of some residents in the town alleging pollution effects from the Chemical Waste Management Inc. 3.5 miles southwest of Kettleman harm residents.
Chem Waste has in the past paid for some community improvement projects in Kettleman. Some, but not all, of the funding was the result of settling environmental litigation.
The California Environmental Protection Agency has an online tool called CalEnviroScreen that uses socioeconomic factors — poverty, educational level, health levels, access to insurance and proximity to pollution, among others — to map out how environmentally vulnerable a community is.
Areas in Kings with the greatest vulnerability include Kettleman, Stratford, Armona, parts of south Hanford and the unincorporated neighborhoods south of Kings Fairgrounds commonly referred to as Home Garden.