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Lawrence reborn: A polluted mill town reclaims its future

by Story Hinckley, The Christian Science Monitor

Ramon Riquel spent the past seven years working at the Crown Cork & Seal factory in Lawrence, Mass. But in March, he was laid off. “They say the plant is down, no more work,” says Mr. Riquel. “It's easy for them, but it’s not easy for us.” Factory jobs have been streaming out of Lawrence for decades. As manufacturers have closed their doors, they have left behind a legacy of pollution and blight. This formerly thriving mill town has become a maze of empty, five-story, brick warehouses deemed brownfields, properties where redevelopment is stalled because of potential pollution. But in recent years, Lawrence has become a center for job training programs that prepare residents such as Mr. Riquel for careers in environmental remediation. Thanks to a patchwork of public and private education programs, many of Lawrence’s majority Hispanic residents have been able to learn a trade while helping to revitalize their community, transforming polluted eyesores into redevelopment opportunities. “Lawrence is going in a new direction,” says Ramon Quezada, who runs a staffing firm for environmental remediation workers. “And we’re helping with that.”


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