Neighbors of South Los Angeles scored an important victory with the imminent shut down of Palace Plating Inc., showing the power of communities in defending their quality of life against polluting plants.
In this case, the will and perseverance mainly of Martha Sánchez, a member of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), and of neighbors and parents of students at 28th Street Elementary School, overcame the resistance of county authorities to seriously consider complaints that the metal finishing plant was emitting polluting materials that hurt students’ health.
Later, the city found that the plant was releasing chromium into the sewer system and other chemicals that affected the air quality in and around the elementary school. This triggered fines and lawsuits, including one filed by Sánchez along with 50 families and a dozen teachers. On November 2, a settlement was approved. Under its terms, the plant will be shuttered by the end of the year, and the company must remove all hazardous waste and pay the school district $750,000 in restitution for the clean up related to the contamination.
The emotional tears Sánchez and her fellow parents and teachers shed when they found out about the deal reflect their joy in obtaining this victory after a years-long battle for a just cause: protecting the health of students.
The case of Palace Plating Inc. set a powerful precedent. Unfortunately, it is not unusual for polluting plants to operate in low-income communities. But this does not mean residents should accept this reality quietly.
Sánchez’s commitment and the communal efforts related to the school yielded the desired results of being heard, changing the present and improving the outlook for the future. This is an example to follow.