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Final Steps For Cleanup of U.S.-Owned Factory in Tijuana

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The final step to clean up lead at an American-owned battery recycling factory in Tijuana began Wednesday. As KPBS reporter Amy Isackson explains, it’s the culmination of a decade's long struggle to

Final Steps For Cleanup of U.S.-Owned Factory in Tijuana

(Photo: Remnants of the 7,000 tons of lead an American-owned battery recycling plant left in Tijuana.  Amy Isackson / KPBS News .)

The final step to clean up lead at an American-owned battery recycling factory in Tijuana began Wednesday. As KPBS reporter Amy Isackson explains, it’s the culmination of a decade's long struggle to control the toxic waste that's poisoned many people in a neighborhood nearby.

Mexican authorities shut down the battery recycling plant in 1994 for allegedly violating environmental regulations.

To avoid arrest, the plant's American owner, Jose Kahn, abandoned his factory and moved across the border to San Diego.

In his wake, he left more than 7,000 tons of lead which rain and wind carried to the community below the plant.

Maria Lourdes Lujan says they started to realize something was wrong when she and her neighbors all had headaches and nausea and their children had learning difficulties.

Lujan says today is a huge victory for us. Besides, she says, it is an example for other communities that have issues like this that they can work with the government as long as neighbors come together and apply pressure.

Mexico's federal government has dedicated more than $1.5 million to the clean-up, and the US EPA $20,000.

The remaining lead will be encased in concrete and buried.

Amy Isackson, KPBS News.

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