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mark! Lopez, 2017 Goldman Prize Recipient for North America

Author: Goldman Prize, Published on: 3 May 2017

In LA’s Eastside…residents bear the brunt of the region’s pollution, with heavy cargo traffic…and industrial plants operating…Among these facilities was an aging battery recycling plant, which had been in operation since 1922 with minimal updates and repairs. Georgia-based Exide took over the smelter in 2000 and ramped up the volume of batteries processed at the plant—and with it, emission levels of dangerous pollutants such as lead and arsenic…In March 2015, after coming under investigation by a federal grand jury about its operations, Exide agreed to shut down the plant but left little means to clean up the contamination beyond the smelter site…Lopez and his team at East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice started knocking on doors to inform the community about the dangers of lead contamination…Lopez faced the next hurdle of identifying funds to run tests and cleanup. He [called out] the injustice in the state leaders’ sluggish response to the Exide cleanup…In April 2016, Governor Brown finally approved $176.6 million for the testing and cleanup of affected homes. Lopez was appointed co-chair of the advisory committee responsible for overseeing the cleanup. While it is one of the largest environmental cleanups in California history, the funds will only cover a fraction of the total homes that need remediation. A newly imposed battery recycling fee is expected to raise additional funds and help other communities in the state affected by defunct battery smelters.

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Related companies: Exide