For Immediate Release: March 29, 2007
||Kassie Siegel: (760) 366-2232 x 302 or (951) 961-7972 (cell)
Norman Diaz:(760) 963-3585 (cell)
Ingrid Brostrom: (661) 720-9140 x 302
Erin Brockovich Community Files New Lawsuit Over Sewage Sludge
Environmental Justice and Conservation Groups Challenge
Approval of Hinkley Sewage Sludge Facility
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.– The Center for Biological Diversity and Helphinkley.org today filed suit challenging the San Bernardino County’s approval of an open-air sewage sludge facility in Hinkley. The groups are represented by the Environmental Law and Justice Clinic at Golden Gate University and the Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment.
The lawsuit, filed today in San Bernardino County Superior Court, challenges the Board of Supervisors’ February 27, 2007 approval of the sewage sludge facility. On that day, the Board voted 4-0 to deny the groups’ appeal, which alleged the Planning Commission’s previous approval of the project violated the law.
The popular Hollywood movie Erin Brockovich told the true story of the toxic legacy of hexavalent chromium 6 contamination in Hinkley. The real-life heroine of the story, Erin Brockovich, has now rallied to the town’s defense once more, requesting that the supervisors deny the project and supporting residents’ efforts. The supervisors also heard heartfelt pleas from more than 120 of those Hinkley residents in opposition to the project, many of whom alleged serious health concerns, which the supervisors rejected.
“This lawsuit underscores the gravity and impact of the proposed sludge plant on the health and safety of countless people living in and around Hinkley, California,” said Erin Brockovich. “Whenever the potential exists for the environment and health of others to be severely compromised by exposure to hazardous pollutants, it is only through awareness, information and perseverance that we can protect ourselves, our families and our health.”
Sewage sludge contains many dangerous pathogens, metals, pesticides and fungus that, if not properly controlled, can cause disease in both humans and animals.
“We believe this open-air dump does not sufficiently protect our water and air quality as well as the health of our entire community,” said Norman Diaz of Helphinkley.org, the local citizens’ group fighting to force the county to enclose the facility. “I am worried about my own kids and all 350 children that attend the elementary school less than eight miles directly downwind of this project.”
The project would entail more than 500 daily vehicle trips to truck up to 2,000 tons of sewage sludge per day from up to 200 miles away in the Inland Empire to this small desert community and spreading it out across 160 acres of pristine desert habitat. The project would process 400,000 tons of waste per year. Project opponents are worried about the project’s potential impacts to public health, wildlife habitat, water quality and greenhouse gas pollution.
Today’s lawsuit is one of the first to challenge an agency’s refusal to analyze the greenhouse gas emissions of its approval. The project will generate significant quantities of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane. “The county refused to sufficiently analyze and mitigate this project's greenhouse gas pollution,” said Kassie Siegel, climate, air, and energy program director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “There are state-of-the-art techniques available that could reduce greenhouse gas and other air pollution. We’re simply asking the county to enter the twenty-first century with regard to its management of these wastes.”
The lawsuit alleges violations of the California Environmental Quality Act, including the Environmental Impact Report’s failure to fully analyze and mitigate the potential air-quality impacts of the project such as greenhouse gas pollution, failure to properly consider the impacts on public health, and failure to fully disclose and mitigate potential impacts to the threatened desert tortoise and other protected wildlife. The lawsuit also charges the project approval violates the county’s own development code.
“The county needs to be held accountable for its actions,” said Ingrid Brostrom, attorney with the Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment. “We are committed to helping the community of Hinkley fight this project. They’ve gone through enough.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 35,000 members dedicated to the protection of imperiled species and habitat. www.biologicaldiversity.org .
Helphinkley.org is the local citizens’ group fighting to force the County to enclose the sewage sludge facility. www.helphinkley.org.