Residents of a Kenyan village awarded $12 million in a lawsuit over lead poisoning

Phyllis Omido walks through the village of Owino Uhuru. She has been keeping a close eye on the lead exposure that has plagued this settlement since a nearby smelter began operations in 2007.

(CNN)A Kenyan community whose children and residents were sickened by lead from a battery smelting plant has been awarded $12 million (1.3 billion Kenyan shillings) following a civil lawsuit.

The court ordered the government to clean up Owino Uhuru, a village on the outskirts of Mombasa, within four months and gave the relevant agencies 90 days to pay out the compensation money.
Thursday's ruling comes after years of grassroots work by environmental activist Phyllis Omido, who launched a legal challenge against the government and the smelting plant owners, accusing them of violating of Kenyan environmental and human rights law and exposing the community to lead poisoning.
    Omido told CNN that Thursday's ruling is a validation of her and the village resident's resolve to receive justice.
      "Many people did not believe me and kept telling me what I was saying about lead poisoning was made up, but now the court has seen the community was exposed to this danger," Omido said.

      Long road to victory

      Omido worked at the lead-acid battery recycling plant, Metal Refinery EPZ, as a community relations manager in 2009.
      She quit after three months when her baby became sick and doctors found lead in her son's blood test they said he might have ingested from her breast milk.
      "My son was sick but I was also not feeling good. Our eyes at the factory would be watering and the smell from the factory was pungent. It got me thinking about what they were producing there," Omido told CNN.
      "After I quit, I noticed that people in the environment had the same issues and decided to get people tested."