Authorities on Wednesday issued a search warrant at a metal recycling facility in Watts, accused of endangering residents and students at nearby Jordan High School with dangerous fumes, drippings and sharp metal projectiles that landed on the campus.
The warrant was part of an investigation by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office of Investigation, but a spokesperson for the office declined to provide details of the ongoing investigation.
Located next to Jordan High School, S&W Atlas Iron & Metal Co. has been the subject of two lawsuits – by the city and the Los Angeles Unified School District – and has been the target of protests from students, staff school and community members calling at the factory. be moved or closed.
As part of his lawsuit, the city won a restraining order last year, barring the company from work that ejected shards of metal onto campus. LA Unified filed a lawsuit in 2020 against Atlas in federal court, alleging dust from the factory is made up of lead, arsenic and other hazardous materials that leave behind a “purple shimmer.”
Atlas representatives defended the company as a family business that has long operated responsibly in the region and provided an important source of employment. An employee who answered the phone at the metal recycling plant on Wednesday declined to speak to a reporter. Atlas officials did not respond to emails or return phone calls Wednesday.
The district hoped to apply the legal and political pressure necessary to force the factory to relocate or close, calling it an unsuitable neighbor for a school as well as renovations to the adjacent Jordan Downs public housing estate.
Superintendent of LA Schools. Alberto Carvalho called the situation “scandalous. … The fact that there are projectiles flying from this site towards the school grounds and the corrective measures that have been taken have proven to be absolutely ineffective. … We need quick solutions.
“I know the community is very, very strong on this issue. … I find it absolutely irresponsible, unacceptable, that legal maneuvering continues to put the interests of the private sector above the people, the needs of the children of this community,” he said this week, adding that the district is mediating with the cabinet, but that the process “seems to me … fraught with frivolous delays.”
On the first day of school Monday, students at Jordan High and members of the community protested Atlas’ situation.
“I take this as seriously as I take gun violence – it’s no different for me – because it costs lives,” said Tim Watkins, president of the Coalition for Healthy Families, a group of teachers, local workers and activists who have organized against the plant. “I don’t know if there’s been a criminal complaint yet, but I think that’s what it takes.”
Two weeks ago, Watkins said, the Coalition for Healthy Families organized what he called a “toxic Watts tour” with several officials to draw attention to environmental issues in the community. The Atlas Metals site was the first step.
The event included representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Justice, the State Attorney General’s Office and the Los Angeles County Attorney’s Office.
The tour was launched after more than 100 Jordan High School students sent a letter to city officials asking them to take action against the plant.
The factory has been in the same location since 1949. But Watkins, who has been protesting the company for years, said it was time for her to “get rid of Watts”.
“It’s time for them to go somewhere where they don’t hurt their neighbors,” he said.
After the LAUSD lawsuit was filed, the company created a barrier made of cargo containers next to the high school, hoping to prevent metal projectiles from entering the campus.
“It’s not the kind of solution we need,” Carvalho said.
Los Angeles Times