Communities on an international border have the great privilege and responsibility of transcending boundaries and merging two cultures into one unique way of life. EHC’s Border Environmental Justice Campaign reduces toxic pollution caused by maquiladora industries in Tijuana and promotes fair trade and globalization for justice.

Our involvement in the border region began in 1983 with the co-sponsorship of an International Environmental Conference in Tijuana. Cross-border relationships continued to grow around a variety of social and environmental justice issues. We formed our Border Environmental Justice Campaign in 1993 with efforts to halt the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, in recognition of the devastation caused by unjust trade along the border.

Our Tijuana Community Action Team, the Colectivo Chilpancingo Pro Justicia Ambiental, inaugurated EHC's office in Colonia Chilpancingo in 2002 to support local residents committed to the struggle for environmental justice in Mexico and along the border.

Watch the videos and read more about EHC's historic successful efforts, including:



"Jóvenes Pro Justicia Ambiental" es parte del Colectivo Chilpancingo Pro Justicia Ambiental y un proyecto de Environmental Health Coalition.


Está conformado por más de 20 jóvenes de entre ocho y 19 años de edad que además de aprender a organizar y sobre temas que afectan su calidad de vida se encargan de desarrollar herramientas y crear vínculos con la comunidad para apoyar las campañas de trabajo del Colectivo Chilpancingo Pro Justicia Ambiental.

Algunos ejemplos de los materiales que han desarrollado son cuatro libros para colorear con la información de las campañas de Environmental Health Colalition. El Grupo de Jóvenes también elaboró dos cómics, el primero, "La historia de mi colonia", cuenta la lucha de la comunidad para limpiar Metales y Derivados. El segundo, "Queremos Aire Limpio" explica el problema de contaminación por el paso de camiones de carga pesada por la comunidad y las posibles soluciones para mejorar esta situación.

Contactar Jóvenes Pro Justicia Ambiental en Facebook 

Environmental Health Coalition, Colectivo Ollín Calli, and members of the Colectivo Chilpancingo Pro Justicia Ambiental, Jóvenes Pro Justicia Ambiental, residents of the Colonia Chilpancingo and neighborhoods adjacent to the Arroyo Alamar and their supporters announced the submission of a petition to procure an injunction against the Arroyo Alamar channelization project that the National Water Commission is developing.


For more information visit or email EHC's Border Environmental Justice Campaign Organizer.

The Arroyo Alamar originates in the United States near Campo in eastern San Diego County, flows into the Tecate River near the town of Tecate in Baja California, and changes its name to the Arroyo Alamar once it enters Tijuana. It then flows through the community of Chilpancingo, into the Tijuana River, and eventually into the Pacific Ocean near Imperial Beach, California. A few decades ago, it was a clean space where people from the nearby communities could fish and drink its water. The presence of the maquiladora assembly plant industry seriously contaminated the river near Colonias Chilpancingo, Murúa and Nueva Esperanza. Residents there would have liked to see it returned to a riparian habitat, but channelization of the river has already begun.

However, the portion of the river closest to the Tecate River contains a wide variety of plants and animals native to the region. It is an invaluable ecosystem that could mitigate the contamination resulting from the Maquiladora industries. The youth group of EHC's Tijuana affiliate, the Colectivo Chilpancingo Pro Justicia Ambiental (the Chilpancingo Collective for Environmental Justice), is working to save this watershed.


Cómic Book: Mi Comunidad y el Alamar

air-pollutionOn October 11, 2011, EHC and our Mexican affiliate the Chilpancingo Collective for Environmental Justice marked an important victory in the bi-national campaign to restrict maquiladora truck traffic from Colonia Chilpancingo and Murúa, where diesel emissions from the trucks have caused respiratory problems for school children.

Signage was posted in August 2011 banning the trucks from the streets where the schools are located. EHC, alongside members of the Collective and its youth group, conducted a campaign for more than two years seeking to restrict semi-truck traffic driving past the three public schools in the neighborhood.

Semi-trucks serving the maquiladora assembly plants take shortcuts through the neighborhood exposing 2,000 school children, and everyone who lives and works in the area, to high levels of diesel emissions. Experts associate these diesel emissions with serious health risks, including asthma, cancer and heart disease. More than 1,000 supporters signed the petition circulated by EHC, the collective and youth group, demanding a halt to the invasion of semi-trucks from the adjacent industrial park, the largest in Tijuana.

The World Health Organization recently changed diesel emissions from the "possible carcinogen" list to the "carcinogen" list.

Citizen's Petition to the NAFTA
Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC)

The CEC established a process for citizens of the NAFTA countries to file a petition against the government of any of the participating countries (the United States, Mexico and Canada) for failing to effectively enforce its environmental laws. EHC was one of the first to take advantage of this process in October 1998. A copy of our petition can be found at:

Information on submitting a citizen's petition is at:

CEC report NAFTA's Commission for Environmental Cooperation accepted [EHC and the Colonia Chilpancingo's Citizens' Submission Petition] in 1998 and released its [Metales y Derivados Final Factual Record] in 2002, confirming the community's concerns about high levels of toxics at the site.

Community/Government Agreements

The cleanup agreement, the agreement to establish the Working Group, and the agreement to finalize the cleanup project, signed in June and July 2004 and July 2008 respectively, are landmarks for environmental justice. These documents are only available in Spanish.

Selected Cleanup Process Documents

These documents record key moments in the struggle to clean up Metales y Derivados.
Foro sobre Metales y Derivados Historia y Lucha de la Colonia Chilpancingo. These documents are only available in Spanish.

Community Monitoring Record

Independent Consultant's Final Monitoring Report to the Community on the cleanup.

Media coverage

For links to many of the print articles written over the past ten years, click here.

Toxinformer articles

Environmental Health Coalition has documented many important moments in the struggle to clean up the toxic Metales y Derivados site in our newsletters.

The Great March for Border Environmental Justice: (August 2001)

Tijuana residents demand cleanup of

toxic site during 24-hour vigil: (April 2002)

Community pressure makes Mexican officials

take action at Metales site: (Click to View)

Chilpancingo residents present

community-based solution ... (July 2003, page 3

Update: Developments in the fight

to cleanup Metales y Derivados (October 2003, page 10)

EHC, Colectivo Chilpancingo form Metales cleanup... (April 2004, page 8)

Victory at last! Community celebrates... (August 2004, page 3)

Metales Y Derivados Update: (February 2006, page 9)

After More Than a Decade of Struggle,

Community Celebrates... (December 2007, page 4)

Articles and Books

The following writings put the struggle to clean up the toxic Metales y Derivados site in the worldwide context of environmental justice.

1. WARREN COUNTY'S LEGACY FOR MEXICO'S BORDER MAQUILADORAS, an article by Amelia Simpson, Director of the Border Environmental Justice Campaign, published by the Golden Gate University Environmental Law Journal, August 22, 2007. 

2. In "Reading Chilpancingo," English teacher Linda Christensen describes a visit to Colonia Chilpancingo in Tijuana, Spring 2006.

3. The following books all contain chapters featuring the work of EHC and the Colectivo Chilpancingo.

Challenging the Chip

Ted Smith, David Sonnenfeld, David Naguib Pellow, eds., 2006, Temple University Press, includes a chapter discussing NAFTA, environmental justice and labor rights in the U.S.-Mexico border region written by Connie García and Amelia Simpson, Director of the Border Environmental Justice Campaign.

Out of the Sea and Into the Fire: Latin American-U.S. Immigration in the Global Age

Kari Lydersen, 2005, Common Courage Press, includes a chapter featuring EHC and the Colectivo's struggle to clean up Metales y Derivados and address the injustices of NAFTA in the border region.

Nafta from Below

Published by the Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras, includes a chapter on the Metales y Derivados struggle.


See EHC communities mobilizing for environmental justice in the cross-border region.

1. Maquilápolis

2. Journey to Planet Earth "Future Conditional"

The ten-year struggle to clean up the abandoned Tijuana lead smelter, Metales y Derivados, culminated in late 2008 and represents a binational environmental justice and public health victory. EHC and the Colectivo Chilpancingo Pro Justicia Ambiental thank the following people and organizations, whose support and efforts made the cleanup of Metales y Derivados possible, as well as the thousands more who signed petitions and postcards, joined us for actions, and shared their talents and resources supporting our efforts:

Irene Silvia Aguilar  • Guadalupe Aguirre De Luján • María Luisa Altamirano • Martha Ángel Arias • José Bravo  • Trinidad Calleros Isabel  • Lupita Castaneda • Inés Castillo M • Magdalena Cerda • Martha Cervantes Soberanez • María De La Luz Chávez Pérez • Paula Contreras Delgadillo • Soledad Contreras Salazar • María Coronado Jiménez • Carolina Cruz García • Verónica Cruz García • Marisol Díaz Bautista • Beatriz Domínguez Macías • Dora Esther Domínguez Ramos • Luz Elena Félix • María de Jesús Flores • Myrna Patricia Flores Díaz • Yanira Fonseca Mendoza • Julieta Fuentes Ramos • Vicky Funari • Blanca Ofelia Gallardo • Connie García • Elva García Calleros • Eva García Calleros • José Antonio García • Parvin Elvira García Calleros • Sandra V García Chincoya • Jorge Glackman-Guerra • Carmen Hernández Preciado • Pilar Jaime Castro • Margarita Jaimes • Cruz Adriana Jiménez Rodríguez • Martina Juárez Rodarte • Ana Langarica Vallecillos • Evangelina Langarica V • Geomara Lara Ruíz • Joanna Itzel Lerma Luján • Blanca E López • Casimira López Solórzano • Luz López Hernández • María Guadalupe Luján Aguirre • María De Lourdes Luján Aguirre • César Luna • Adela Martínez Castro • Sandra Martínez • Enrique Medina • María Meléndez De Fong • Rosalba Mendoza Ibarra • María Guadalupe Mercado • Kenia Elizabeth Meza Cervantes • María Consuelo Muñoz López • Esteban Naranjo • Martha Ojeda • Micaela Ontiveros B • José Efraín Ortega Contreras • María Leonor Ortega Ledesma • Sara Noemí Osuna • Jermán Páez Rodríguez • Yesenia Palomares Rodríguez • Andrea Pedro Aguilar • María Luisa Pérez Mendoza • Margarita Pérez De Chávez • Sonia Pérez Gómez • María Alicia Ramos O • Silvia Rangel López • Olga Marta Rendón • María Elena Rojo Ramírez • Guadalupe Ruíz • Juan M. Ruíz Ofiga • María Guadalupe Ruíz Mendoza • Aurora Salazar Flores • María De La Luz Salcedo • David Saldaña Seguro • Vicenta Saucedo Escobedo • Magdalena Silva Ramírez • Amelia Simpson • Kazuo Tanaka • Sergio De La Torre • Dulce María Torres Velarde • Gonzalo Valdez Delgado • Martha Valdes • Yolanda Valez D • Graciela Villalvaso • Emeteria Areli Villatoro Córdova • Karina Elizabeth Zavala Romero • Border 2012 Program • Border Environmental Cooperation Commission • CITTAC • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency • Secretaría del Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales • Secretaría de Protección al Ambiente del Estado de Baja California • Charles Stewart Mott Foundation • Colin Rodríguez Griswold Memorial Fund • French American Charitable Trust • Ford Foundation Global Greengrants Fund • Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation • John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation • Marguerite Casey Foundation • Marisla Foundation • Mitchell Kapor Foundation • Nathan Cummings Foundation • New World Foundation • New York Community Trust • North American Fund for Environmental Cooperation • Orca Fund at the San Diego Foundation • Panta Rhea Foundation • Solidago Foundation • Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock


leadbundlesWith corporate globalization, trade increased along the U.S.-Mexico border and so did pollution. However, trade agreements like NAFTA fail to hold polluting corporations responsible or to provide resources for environmental protection.

Of the 66 documented toxic waste sites in Mexican border states, the most infamous is Tijuana's Metales y Derivados, a U.S.-owned maquiladora factory that recycled batteries imported from the U.S. The owner, José Kahn, fled across the border when the maquiladora was shut down in 1994 after community reports of health problems and repeated violations of environmental law documented by the Mexican government. Mr. Kahn left behind 23,000 tons of mixed contaminated waste, including 7,000 tons of lead slag, exposed to the elements and threatening workers and families living in the adjacent Tijuana neighborhood of Colonia Chilpancingo.

EHC and the community conducted a campaign for over a decade to compel a cleanup. In 1998, EHC and the community filed a petition with NAFTA's environmental agency, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation.

The commission's report, released in 2002, concluded that the site represented a "grave risk to human health." Yet the commission has no authority or resources to clean up toxic sites. After over a decade of organizing and advocacy, EHC and the community finally celebrated the signing of a landmark cleanup agreement in 2004 with the Mexican government and the formation of a bi-national, community/government working group. The cleanup was completed in 2008, ahead of schedule, and included independent community monitoring. (Download the full cleanup chronology.)

Metales y Derivados is the poster child for the failure of NAFTA to live up to its negotiators' promise to protect public health and the environment. However, Metales y Derivados symbolizes environmental justice achieved. The case established for the first time a structure for cross-border and community/government collaboration on toxic site cleanups.