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A truck makes its way down Highway 41, which runs through Kettleman City. A state regulatory agency has issued 72 violations alleging that spills of hazardous chemicals went unreported over the last four years at Chemical Waste Management, a toxic waste dump near the impoverished central California town. Some residents of the farming town blame the dump for birth defects affecting some of the town's children and want to block the dump from expanding. The operation is the only toxic waste facility in the state allowed to accept carcinogenic PCBs.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

After dumping a load of waste, a truck exits the Chemical Waste Management facility.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

A woman walks down a road lelading to the heart of Kettleman City.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Cecilio Barrera, community relations specialist with Chemical Waste Management, casts a long shadow as he looks over an area where the company hopes to expand.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Bob Henry, senior district manager with Chemical Waste Management, surveys the staging area where 72 unreported spills occurred.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Suzanna Rangel, right, walks with her daughter Christina, 5, near their home. Suzanna's sister, Ivonne Rangel, 31, recently lost her 2-year-old son to leukemia in the Central California town. The family believes that pollutants from the nearby toxic dump are to blame. However, a survey by state health investigators ruled out the facility as the reason 11 babies were born with serious illnesses in the small community of low-income farmworkers between September 2007 and March 2010.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Ivonne Rangel, 31, left, inside her home in Kettleman City, looks over a makeshift memorial for her 2-year-old son Daniel Herson Celedon Rangel, who died Nov. 12, 2012, of leukemia. Rangel's mother, Marta Chavez, right, mourns the loss of her grandchild. "The first thing that came to my mind after my son was diagnosed with aggressive leukemia was that toxic waste dump," Rangel said. She believes it contributed to her son's illness and death.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Viridiana Franco sits next to her daughter Azul Chaidez, 2, in a park. Azul was born with tetralogy of Fallot, a group of four types of heart defects. Franco believes pollutants in the area caused her daughter's illness. Franco and her family lived in Kettelman City for 17 years and have since relocated to the city of Avenal, Calif.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Ivonne Rangel, 31, second from left, along with friends and relatives, mourns the death of her 2-year-old son Daniel Herson Celedon Rangel during his memorial at St. Cecelia Catholic Church. The boy's death is the latest children's health incident to raise the ire of activists.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Friends and family approach St. Cecelia Catholic Church to attend a memorial for 2-year-old Daniel Herson Celedon Rangel. His death is yet another reason activists hope to block the proposed expansion of the nearby Chemical Waste Management toxic dump.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

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Kettleman City's toxic spills

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Environmental activists and leaders of this impoverished central California community, outraged by unreported spills of cancer-causing chemicals, are trying to block expansion of a toxic waste dump that is the largest of its kind west of the Mississippi River.

Activists say the history of the troubled Chemical Waste Management dump and new citations alleging failure to report 72 hazardous materials spills over the last four years show that the company cannot be trusted to protect public health.

The state Department of Toxic Substances Control issued the citations earlier this month. It is also the agency that will rule on the proposed expansion.

See Louis Sahagun’s story “Kettleman City activists seek to block expansion of toxic dump”

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