THERMAL, Calif. - The Eastern Coachella Valley faces a slew of environmental health concerns. Compared to the west valley the water, air and soil are significantly more polluted.
And as the Salton Sea dries, it emits toxic dust that threatens public health.
"Some people aren't aware of the problems we have in the Eastern Coachella Valley and it's time for people to be aware," said Luis Clemente, a senior at Desert Mirage High School who hopes to one day become an environmental engineer.
Clemente attended the 2nd annual Environmental Health Leadership Summit in Thermal to learn what can be done to save the region.
"There's a lot of hope because I've actually talked to many people who have a strong desire to expose the idea of improving the valley," Clemente said.
The goal of the summit: to mobilize and connect people with resources and strategies to tackle the valley's issues.
"If something is wrong with our environment it can affect our personal health and we all need to come together as a community to find solutions," said Congressman Raul Ruiz, one of the keynote speaker's of Saturday's summit.
Solutions that include changes to public policy at the local, state and federal levels.
"We're on the threshold of creating projects that will start the infrastructure development to capitalize on renewable energy businesses," Ruiz said.
Priscila Quijada grew up in the Coachella Valley and said she's already seen positive changes through increased public awareness.
"People at the community level are being more of an advocate, they're learning how to defend their rights and learn what is impacting them," Quijada said.
There's still a long way to go, but the summit hopes through collaboration a healthier Coachella Valley is on the horizon.
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