There are over 1300 superfund sites in the United States. Of these, almost 100 are spread throughout California. 23 are in Santa Clara County. This is more than any other single county in the United States.
Superfund sites are areas recognized by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as highly contaminated. Many of the superfund sites in Santa Clara County are located where tech manufacturing once took place. All of them are located where the land and water were poisoned in the name of efficiency, productivity, and profit. Or more broadly, in the name of capitalism.
Some sites have undergone various kinds of cleanups. Large, forked scoops have picked up and hauled off contaminated dirt, driving it to some unmarked location so it can be dumped out of sight and out of mind. Some locations have installed water filtration systems to clean ground water, but toxins still continue to move of their own accord, seeping in and through the soil, water, and air.
On a related side note: the 23 sites discussed in the following pieces are all sites recognized by the EPA, however, state and federal officials claim that there are hundreds of other toxic sites scattered all over Silicon Valley due to things called “vapor plumes.” Vapor plumes are chemicals that rise through the soil and ground water; officials have recorded more than 518 toxic plumes in Santa Clara County.
Because of their omnipresence in the area, no matter where you are, you are probably within two blocks of a spill, plume, or some other of environmental hazard.
We live our lives above, inside, and alongside these toxins.
This introduction is the first in (roughly) 23-part series that looks at each superfund site in Santa Clara County: the historical contexts, capitalistic contours, and local legacies of contamination.
OCTOBER MONTOYA is a mixed, queer and trans media artist from East San Jose.