By BERENICE SANCHEZ/South Kern Sol
BAKERSFIELD–Community advocates and government agencies joined forces to launch the website that will allow community members and environmental advocates to report environmental and health hazards they see on May 1.
The KEEN (Kern Environmental Enforcement Network) website is sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and The California Endowment. KEEN was modeled after Imperial County’s successful reporting tool IVAN (Imperial Visions Action Network).
“Imperial County’s IVAN collected 44 reports (which led to $90,000) in environmental fines,” said Sarah Aivd, from Californians for Pesticide Reform. “Part of those fines are directed to the community for programs for the environment.”
The ‘environmental hazard-tracking’ system is will be used in Kern County by anyone to report a problem or hazard.
“We work with a lot of different agencies, getting into the fields, into the communities to get out this information,” said Aivd. “There are a lot of barriers they (the community members) face. They might see someone at 2 a.m.; this is designed to address those issues.”
KEEN can be accessed multiple ways: Online on the KEEN website (www.KernReport.org), through email, texting with or without pictures to (303) 800-8307, or by calling on the phone number (661) 379-0411 and leaving a detailed voice message. Whichever method is chosen, they can all be accessed 24 hours a day.”
Kern County is part of the Central Valley, so it’s not surprising, especially in South Kern, to notice the rows upon rows of fields and the offensive smells. The smells come from pesticides strayed onto the surrounding fields or from the dairy farms.
“I think this program will be a great tool for the communities to report all the hazards that are in the communities,” said Gustavo Aguirre, an organizing director from the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment (CRPE). “From air quality to water quality, we are suffering from pollution. Our children are suffering from pollution.”
In Arvin, CRPE brought air quality testing buckets. Aguirre said he was upset the findings.
“Ten different chemicals were found in the dust,” he said. “Two of them are above the state limit.”
With residents having the opportunity to report hazards such as those, all of Kern County can work together to become healthier and safer. Any concerns or hazards can be reported to KEEN, who’ll then direct them to the proper enforcers to fix the problems as soon as possible. Problems like drifting pesticides, flooding, unsafe workplaces, and agricultural burning to illegal trash dumping of any substance, odors from dairies, and damaged roadways, with KEEN reporting is just a click or call away.
“Just the fact that we’re able to report, it’ll allow the community to be more effective in helping the government enforce those violations,” said Aguirre.
Within KEEN’s first meeting in March, results have already been made. Residents from Weedpatch were able to get Kern Regional Transit to build a bus shelter, so that the people in the community are able to have a safe bus stop onto which they can use.
Everyone seemed thrilled about the new KEEN tool that will allow community members and environmental advocates to safely, quickly and anonymously report violations. Language barriers will not be a problem, nor will accessibility.
“KEEN provides an easy way to file reports,” said Tracey Brieger, from Californians for Pesticide Reform. “This is a significant step to greater change.”
“As a result of that, our air and water pollution will be minimized. We’ll have a positive input in our communities,” added Aguirre.