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U.S. EPA, Mexican environmental agencies celebrate cleanup of former abandoned lead smelter / Over 42,000 tons of dangerous lead contained

Release Date: 01/28/2009
Contact Information: Francisco Arcaute, (213) 244-1815, cell (213) 798-1404

(01/28/09) LOS ANGELES – Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency joined Mexico’s environmental ministry, SEMARNAT, to celebrate the cleanup of Metales y Derivados, a former Tijuana lead smelter that was abandoned with over 42,000 tons of lead in open pits or buried in drums and sacks, which posed significant public health risks to the residents of nearby Otay Mesa.

Joining the EPA and SEMARNAT were representatives from the state of Baja California; the federal enforcement agency, PROFEPA; members of the Colectivo Chilpancingo; Mexican elected officials; and grassroots environmental organizations, including the Environmental Health Coalition.

“The Metales y Derivados cleanup effort is a model of binational partnership,” said Laura Yoshii, the EPA's acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest region. “We’re proud to be part of this joint effort with the Tijuana community and Mexican officials that has had a positive impact on the lives of the people living nearby.”

"The Environmental Health Coalition and our community action team in Tijuana, the Colectivo Chilpancingo Pro Justicia Ambiental, celebrate this historic accomplishment for the local community, for cross-border solidarity, and for the U.S. and Mexican governments who worked with the community to achieve the cleanup," said Amelia Simpson, director of the Border Environmental Justice Campaign at Environmental Health Coalition.

Starting in the late 1980’s, Metales y Derivados was a U.S.-owned, lead smelting facility. In 1992, the facility was cited by Mexico’s PROFEPA for environmental non-compliance, and in 1994, the site was abandoned by its owner. In 2004, a binational partnership workgroup established as part of the U.S.–Mexico Border 2012 Program implemented a four-phase cleanup plan which included the initial removal of 2,000 tons of high risk wastes and the recent construction of a cap over 42,000 tons of lead waste.

The Metales y Derivados property is now owned by the state of Baja California as a result of the cleanup and land-transfer agreement established in 2004 between the federal and state governments. Baja California is exploring reuse options, including the installation of solar panels to power local industry and a state environmental testing lab.

Lead poisoning symptoms include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, headache, joint or muscle aches, and anemia. Long term overexposure to lead may result in severe damage to the nervous, urinary, and reproductive systems.

The Border 2012 U.S.-Mexico Environmental Program is a results-driven, bottoms-up binational program that works to protect the environment and public health in the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border region.

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