featuring CEJA leaders
Victor San Miguel stands on the porch of his dilapidated white-frame house on Hollenbeck Avenue and points across the street. Without taking a step off his property, San Miguel provides a quick tour of his neighborhood, but it’s a grim tour, like a slow walk through a cemetery.
“The woman in that house has leukemia,” he says matter of factly. “The one next to her has breast cancer, and another one over there has leukemia.”
San Miguel, a 60-year-old retired wrecker-driver, has lived on Hollenbeck for 27 years. Three years ago, he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and his wife also suffers thyroid problems. He walks slowly and speaks in a hoarse murmur, and his right eyelid is almost perpetually shut. But his tattooed arms are muscular and he maintains an aura of toughness, albeit a fragile toughness.
San Miguel’s home is only a couple of blocks away from East Kelly — a section of what used to be Kelly Air Force Base that recently came to be known as Port San Antonio. It’s about five blocks east of a Union Pacific Railroad crossing that divides these neighborhoods from the bulk of the former military base, an aircraft storage and maintenance facility with roots that go back to 1916. In other words, he lives smack in the middle of what residents call the “toxic triangle,” a group of more than 20,000 homes that sit above a plume of contaminated groundwater filled with chemicals dumped or leaked by Kelly employees — contaminants such as Trichloroethene (TCE), an industrial solvent used to clean machinery at the base, and Tetrachloroethene (PERC, or PCE), a paint-stripper with dangerous side effects.