Tim Watkins (CSUDH)

Community leaders, teachers and parents recently launched the Healthy Families Coalition to demand the Los Angeles City Planning and Environmental Health Departments immediately condemn Atlas Metals in Watts.

“For years the City of Los Angeles has ignored the pleas of a community that has been poisoned by lead and endangered by metal projectiles,” said Tim Watkins, president and CEO of Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC).

“What’s the point of having regulations on the books if the city isn’t going to use them to protect nearly 1,000 kids?”

According to court records, multiple pieces of shrapnel (photos) have been ejected from Atlas Metals onto school grounds, threatening to injure or kill a student or staff member. One “narrowly miss[ed]” hitting a construction worker. To protect the kids at the school the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) closed a brand new softball field and the adjacent batting cages after spending $3 million to remediate the environmental hazards and renovate the field.

“This is one of the most egregious environmental injustices I’ve ever seen,” said Ingrid Rivera– Guzman, president of the Latino Coalition of Los Angeles.

“The dangers that these kids are exposed to would never be allowed in Beverly Hills in a million years, but for some reason, the city has looked the other way while Brown and Black kids have been poisoned for decades. This isunacceptable, and it’s an injustice that must be stopped immediately.”

In a report from the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), a summary of violations showed that Atlas is in violation of Health and Safety Code section 25189.5 and companion sections regarding the Illegal Disposal of HazardousWaste; Storage of Hazardous

Waste; and Treatment of Hazardous Waste–violations which can be charged as felonies or misdemeanors under California state law.

“These kids go to school every day and endure shaking from a large magnetic compactor used to smash cars and other large objects, all of which severely disturbs the learning environment for high-schoolers that are already in a historically disadvantaged community,” said Alan Antonio, an organizer with the non-profit, It’s Our Turn. “City leaders have sat on their hands while these kids go to school every day in a dangerous environment. It’s shameful.”

Court records indicate that the noise from the compactor (video) along with other fascinatingly loud noises cause children to “cup their ears” while at school. Staff at the school report “the violent slamming and crushing ofmetals…metallic dust on the blacktop and playing fields…large and dangerous pieces of metal… [and] incredibly loud explosions that sound like bombs…”

In one case, an actual bomb was exploded at the site, projecting shrapnel onto school grounds. To block shrapnel from being ejected onto school grounds Atlas erected an unpermitted, illegal wall made from shipping containers that is unstable and leaning. A Supervising Structural Engineer for LAUSD recently said in a declaration that:

“The Container Wall poses a clear and present danger to the students and staff at the School… In my opinion, there is areal potential danger that this wall of stacked shipping containers is likely to tip and fall, and because of the wall’s height and immediate proximity to the School, such a collapse could be catastrophic with potential serious injuries or death to occupants of the School. I am particularly concerned about electrical poles and high voltage wires in the potentialpathway of the wall if it were to collapse.”

The Healthy Families Coalition has launched a website and petition available at www.HealthyFamiliesLA.org.