Betty Amparano has been sounding the alarm about environmental pollution in her hometown of Hayden, Arizona for nearly 20 years. In November, the effort finally seemed to pay off, as ASARCO, the company that owns the copper smelter in Hayden, agreed to a settlement with the EPA that will cost the company more than $160-million in fines and smelter improvements that are meant to reduce pollution and its effects on the community.
"My main concern was the young children. The innocent bystanders. You know, growing up in a toxic health disaster," said Amparano.
The EPA found that the smelter was spewing as much as 20-tons of arsenic and lead into the sky over Hayden each year. According to a fact sheet published by the agency, exposure to the toxins can cause cancers, neurological and reproductive problems.
"When you go from house to house, there's cancers and respiratory problems, as well as early death for older people," said Steve Brittle, who is the president of Don't Waste Arizona, and one of the environmentalists who raised red flags about what was happening in Hayden.
Brittle says the settlement will result in real benefits for the community.
"Once (the EPA) does enforcement, they don't ever really leave again. They are there to make sure everything is done the way it should have been done," said Brittle.
At the time the settlement was announced, the president of ASARCO, Manuel Ramos, issued a statement that read, "We believe this will protect our community's economic future and ensure that our environment is clean and safe."
Betty Amparano says she still is not satisfied.
"Oh hell, no. You can't put a price on the fact that all of this has taken place and the innocent people that are not here to talk about it," said Amparano.
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