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Students at the Llano Grande Center in Edcouch-Elsa, Texas, are combining oral history, environmental science, and direct action in ‘Toxic Nopalitos,’ an ambitious project that’s come to the attention of state authorities.

The high schoolers knew that people in this part of South Texas worried that an abandoned chemical plant posed a health and safety hazard. Red Barn Chemical closed in 1985, but the relics of the factory stayed. When the students interviewed local residents, “stories of jumping bicycles from piles of powdered chemicals, smelling the ammonia fumes from the plant and losing relatives to cancer and babies to miscarriage poured out.” The students then made their findings public at a community meeting.

Their environmental study will go on. Further, Sara Perkins of The Monitor writes, “the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has assigned an investigator to the site after students wrote the agency, noting the strong possibility that the soil there could still be contaminated.”

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