As one of the lawyers who represented residents of the town of Casmalia, California, in their lawsuit against Casmalia Resources, Hunter Resources Inc., Kenneth H. Hunter Jr,, the County of Santa Barbara, and generators of the toxic wastes disposed of at the facility, I believe it is essential to point out that it is misleading to state, as EPA Administrator Pruitt did, that there can be a “final cleanup” of the facility.
Between 1972 and 1989 more than 10,000 businesses and government entities sent hazardous wastes to Casmalia totaling more than 5.6 billion pounds of mixed contaminants, including heavy metals, acids, pesticide solvents, and menial sewage sludge (literally everything but radioactive wastes), which entered the groundwater, surface water, and soil; and was literally sprayed onto both the town and its elementary school. The dump used evaporation ponds and pads (43 and 15 respectively) to dispose of liquid hazardous waste. The method the dump chose for disposing of those wastes was evaporation, creating a toxic mist thatregularly settled on the town and the elementary school.
During our litigation we commissioned a toxicological study, undertaken by researchers from Cal State University, Northridge, which found abnormally high occurrences of respiratory and central nervous system problems in the residents, including the children, along with elevated white blood cell counts.
The truth is that Casmalia was molded after the 17th century approach to waste disposal: Dig a hole, and bury it. That approach was never appropriate for toxic wastes. It should not have taken until 2001 to declare it a Superfund site. It cannot in 2018 be declared, by EPA, to be in a final cleanup phase. More than 300 wells, which need continuous monitoring, were installed around the site to test for groundwater contamination. The four landfills at the dump were capped with vegetative covers that can leak during rain events. Waste material and water too polluted to clean is periodically sent out of the county to be cleaned at another facility. This is not a site ready for a final cleanup plan.