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Victory for Kenyan Community that Took Smelting Plant to Court

A Kenyan community whose children and residents were sickened by lead from a battery smelting plant has been awarded $12 million following a civil lawsuit. The court ordered the government to clean up Owino Uhuru, a village on the outskirts of Mombosa, within four months and gave the relevant agencies 90 days to pay out the compensation money. Last week’s ruling comes after years of grassroots work by environmental activist Phyllis Omido, who launched a legal challenge against the government and the smelting plant owners, accusing them of violating of Kenyan environmental and human rights law and exposing the community to lead poisoning. Omido told CNN that the ruling is a validation of her and the village resident’s resolve to receive justice. Omido worked at the lead-acid battery recycling plant, Metal Refinery EPZ, as a community relations manager in 2009. She quit after three months when her baby became sick and doctors found lead in her son’s blood test they said he might have ingested from her breast milk. She kick-started years of grassroots demonstration for the factory’s closure and investigation into residents’ allegations of health problems caused by the smelting factory’s activities. The company shut down in 2014 eight years after it began operation nearby the village and only when Kenya made the exportation of scrap metal illegal.