23: An Introduction

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.

a light grey map of the south bay is littered with purple blobs of various shapes and sizes.  The blobs represent vapor plumes left by industry remnants in the 80's and 90's.
Vapor plumes: https://www.nbcbayarea.com/brchannel/Map-The-Chemical-Legacy-of-Silicon-Valley-258950021.html

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.

a colorful screenshot of a map from the app Whats Down.  The map depicts the bay area, with the pacific ocean on the left, and the border of nevada on the right.  Vertically, the map shows everything from San Francisco to south San Jose. The map is scattered with green arrows, which represnt spill sites.  There are also a few red arrows whose representation is unknown.  On the upper right side of the image is a key with options to select your visuals.  the options are: street map, ariel imagery, spill site, groundwater plume, environmental precaution, area, location, and multiform area.
Terradex’s map of toxic sites: https://whatsdown.terradex.com/#9/37.3394/-121.8950/

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. 

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