Environmental Racism in Stanislaus County

Environmental Racism in Stanislaus County


On November 9, 2021, Earthjustice in collaboration with East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, Valley Improvement Projects, and Californians Against Waste released a new report titled: Vestiges of Environmental Racism: Closing California’s Last Two Municipal Waste Incinerators. 

Team Information
Clean Air in our Community Now!

About the Problem

Problem Category


Problem Context

This report delves into the harmful impacts of incinerators on public health and the environment with a focus at the incinerators in Long Beach and Stanislaus County and provides an overview of an alternative approach of waste management through the implementation of zero waste strategies instead of continuing to invest in expensive, harmful technologies.

How did you identify this problem?

This issue was already identified, however I subscribe to a community radio (95.5) mailing list and received a forwarded invitation to attend an upcoming talk on Environmental Racism in the county. I attended and was astounded by the findings in the report, which I pull text from directly to highlight in more detail below. I hope that other students may be interested in supporting advocacy efforts to close this plant. 

Problem Details

Who are those affected by this problem?

QUICK FACTS: Covanta Stanislaus Location: Stanislaus County, CA Operational Since: 1989 Amount of Waste Processed Annually: 320,000 tons Amount of Toxic Ash Produced Annually: 96,000 tons Population within 5-mile radius: 80% people of color $23,534 per capita income

How often does this problem occur?

Ongoing daily

How long has the problem been going on?

33 years

Is the problem disrupting the community? How?

Covanta Stanislaus harm the health of nearby community members and the environment. These incinerators regularly emit numerous harmful pollutants, including nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, particulate matter, ammonia, and lead, among others. According to EPA’s enforcement database, Covanta Stanislaus has had a high priority violation of its air permit requirements for the last four quarters. 

Is the issue perceived as a problem by the community at large?

The community most directly impacted is aware, many face a high burden of disease such as chronic asthma and respiratory conditions as a result of prolonged exposure. It does not appear that there is widespread community knowledge on the source of the problem, however it is common knowledge that we have poor air quality in the Central Valley. Most people I have spoken with to date were not even aware the plant existed. 

Is the problem limited to certain geographic areas?

The heaviest concentration of harm is in the community living in the immediate 5-mile radius of the plant. However, these harmful pollutants can enter water ways and food systems, a significant consideration given the volume of food production that occurs in this area. In addition, all of us are affected by poor air quality especially vulnerable groups. Toxic Ash is safe for no lungs. 

Who are the Stakeholders, those wanting this problem to be fixed?

The immediate community living in area of the plant, Stanislaus county residents, elderly, those with weakened immune systems or lung issues, environmental advocates. 

Addressing the Problem

Are you aware of any solutions, approaches, or efforts to tackle this problem?

Valley Improvement Projects submitted a call to action to pressure public officials to vote to close the plant. These efforts are ongoing:

What are the obstacles you are aware of to address the problem?

Lack of alternative recycling facilities. Where will the waste go other wise?

What are the success criteria that could be defined to address this problem?

Plant is able to close. End of active environmental racism committed against local residents. Possibility of more sustainable alternatives with less greenhouse gas and toxic emissions.