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California Residents Battle Pollution on Ormond Beach

OXNARD, California – Ormond Beach is a natural enclave in this Southern California city that is fighting pollution, and its conservation is a priority mission for activists who are looking for help from the area’s mainly Latino farmworkers.

This 630-hectare (1,560-acre) area with beaches, sand dunes and wetlands, which besides having a large diversity of wildlife, is home to some 200,000 people, 73 percent of whom are Latinos, according to the latest US Census.

“Our people for generations have understood the importance of nature, the importance of our Mother Earth,” Ocil Herrejon, community organizer of the Central Coast Alliance United for A Sustainable Economy (CAUSE), told EFE

The 25-year-old activist said she looks forward to getting advice from workers in the local countryside, mostly Mexicans who are indigenous peoples like the Nahuatl, Mixtecs, Purepechas and Zapotecs, and who work at sowing and harvesting Oxnard’s crops.

On the 3.2 kilometers (2 miles) of Ormond Beach between Naval Base Ventura County and Port Hueneme, there are few people who venture into the water besides surfers.

“Because of the electric plants, toxic waste and recycling plants, people don’t feel safe coming here, and they particularly don’t want to risk bringing their families,” Herrejon said.

In this enclave, where some 200 bird species have been counted including 25 endangered species, there are also a neglected electric plant and a metal-recycling factory, the “main sources of pollution,” as Miguel Ramos, community coordinator of the Nature Conservancy, told EFE.

Ramos said that Ormond Beach has a high concentration of “metals and residual salts,” the reason why the acidity and alkali content is abnormal, while toxic residues have also been found in the “subterranean aquifers,” all from industrial waste.

In underground land and water, “there are concentrations of ammonia, discarded oil from machinery and solvents,” among other toxins, Ramos said.

Activists and local government want “Ormond to be a clean natural area forever,” as city councilor Carmen Ramirez, who also acts as deputy mayor, told EFE after acknowledging the area’s impaired environmental condition.

Together with fellow councilor Vianey Lopez, they seek to speak with everyone involved to eliminate Ormond’s pollutants, and in that battle they want the farmworkers to lend a hand.

“We want the Mexican farmworkers to join in the projects of restoration and conservation, because the beach is theirs as well,” Ramirez said.

The plans go from laying access roads to Ormond Beach, which will help people enjoy the seaside, to educating residents and visitors to respect the natural environment on this stretch of the California coastline.

“It’s important...to return this beach, these wetlands, to the natural state they were in, so that our families can come here on weekends,” Herrejon said.

Her CAUSE colleague, Victor Cortez, 19, told EFE that “the farmworkers have many connections with nature since they spend practically all of their time in the countryside, and when they look at the land they feel it is alive.”

Agricultural workers, she added, “feel this beach is alive, but there are many industries killing it.”


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