The tiny community of Pacoima, at the north end of Los Angeles, suffers from nearly every imaginable obstacle to a healthy urban environment. That means, for starters, lead paint, freeway traffic, airports, landfills, diesel trucks, chemical manufacturing, power plants, heavy industry, and overcrowding. It also means the linguistic and cultural differences that have historically defined the largely Latino community -- and separated it from potential allies. These days, that gulf is narrowing. Through the efforts of Pacoima Beautiful, a nonprofit organization of Pacoima residents and their allies, the three-square-mile community is working with elected officials to clean up its environment. …
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Mary Wiltenburg has reported on environmental issues from Kentucky to Kazakhstan. Her previous photo and audio work has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Morning Edition, and This American Life.