July 15, 2010 - Silicon Valley is home to one of the nation's heaviest concentrations of toxic-waste sites. The costly effects of the region's tainted industrial past can be seen in this city's eastern outskirts.
Here a residential neighborhood sits 2,000 feet from a toxic-waste site once used as a chemicals-processing plant run by Romic Environmental Technologies Corp. Romic processed hazardous materials like solvents, fuels and inks from local technology companies and other manufacturers for nearly 50 years. The facility was closed in 2007 after a series of environmental and safety violations. Romic paid fines in two cases, but admitted to no wrongdoing.
East Palo Alto officials are now trying to turn the area into a business park dubbed the Ravenswood Business District, which they hope will alleviate the city's 20% unemployment rate. But development has been delayed partly by an expensive cleanup of Romic and other contaminated properties, a process that is projected to take several years.
In addition, some residents have complained of respiratory problems that they allege might be related to the accidental release of a chemical cloud at the Romic facility in 2006.