Laid to Waste: The Stringfellow Acid Pits and Making of Place in Southern California


ACLS Fellowship Program


Environmental Analysis


This project examines the history of the first Superfund site in California, the Stringfellow Acid Pits, to better understand how places are produced in the context of invisible flows: of toxics, of groundwater, and less told stories of social mobilization. Drawing on archival material and interviews with community activists and government officials, this research explores how hazardous wastes are understood, rationalized, and managed by scientific experts to justify dumping; why policy makers overlooked groundwater contamination in spite of prevailing scientific knowledge; and how to make sense of the often heterogeneous and contradictory nature of local resistance to, and mobilization against, contamination by industrial waste. Significantly, this work considers how institutions of expertise often exclude the experiences of those most exposed to harm and, despite deep and persistent uncertainties, authority figures have been called on to minimize concerns about hazardous substances, thus facilitating industrial, military, and economic expansion.