HANFORD -- Kettleman City advocacy organizations on Friday asked the state Transportation Department and the U.S. Department of Transportation to investigate Kings County officials for alleged civil rights violations and racial discrimination in the approval of a hazardous waste landfill expansion near Kettleman City.
Complaints alleging the violations were sent to the two agencies because Kings County receives state and federal funding and is prohibited from practicing racial discrimination, said community groups and advocates at a news conference Friday in front of the Kings County Board of Supervisors building.
The complaints were filed on behalf of two Kettleman City advocacy groups -- People for Clean Air and Water and Kids Protecting Our Planet.
The groups allege that Spanish speakers were discriminated against at hearings on Waste Management's proposed expansion.
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Spanish speakers were allowed 2½ minutes each, because their comments had to be translated, while English speakers each received five minutes, said residents and their supporters. Also, documents on the proposed expansion were not translated into Spanish, they said.
Also, Kettleman City residents felt intimidated by a heavy law-enforcement presence at hearings, they said.
"We just felt that systematically there has been racism throughout the whole process," said Maricela Mares-Alatorre, a Kettleman City resident and a member of People for Clean Air and Water.
Kings County supervisors approved the landfill expansion in December.
Environmental groups countered with a lawsuit to block those plans, alleging state civil rights violations.
"We're saying that the discrimination has to stop," Ingrid Brostrom, attorney for the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment, said Friday.
The center filed the complaints on behalf of the Kettleman City groups.
Kings County officials and a Waste Management spokeswoman had no comment on the complaints.
Caltrans and the U.S. Department of Transportation could not be reached Friday for comment.