On Thurs., Aug. 7, ten million gallons of copper sulphate, sulphuric acid, and heavy metals from copper mining company Grupo Mexico spilled into the Bacanuchi River located in the northern state of Sonora, Mexico. As a result of the spill, the river has turned orange and toxic, which caused authorities to shut down the municipal water supply to 20,000 people in seven towns. Due to the spill’s growing environmental impact, authorities have advised citizens living in Sonora not to use water from the river until Grupo Mexico has conducted a major clean-up operation.
According to a report from Grupo Mexico, they have set up a $150 million trust to pay for damages. However, Mexico’s National Water Commission official Cesar Lagarda has voiced concern about the company and its handling of the chemical spill, stating that “the company deliberately concealed the accident.” Others, including the head of the industrial inspection for the Attorney General for Environmental Protection, argue that the company underwent proper protocol by filing its report within the 24-hour time limit.
Following the spill, the mining company allegedly tried to conceal the accident using pumps and suction. So far, the Sonora state civil protection agency has terminated its relationship with Grupo Mexico because of the incident and past accusations of illegal chemical dumping.
Grupo Mexico has denied all accusations, claiming it did all in its power to stop the incident. Despite efforts to clean up the chemical spill, the accident has killed hundreds of fish and cattle. In August, the spill caused 88 schools to close because of the lack of safe drinking water. Exposure to the chemicals found in the river can cause damage to numerous organs, such as the liver and lungs, as well as the renal and reproductive systems. In addition, the exposure can lead to diseases, such as hepatitis, cancer, osteoporosis, Alzheimers, and Parkinsons.
In what has been called the worst ecological disaster in Mexican history, the Sonora chemical spill has polluted 70 percent of the nation’s rivers, distressing environmentalists and scientists. Only time will tell if it is possible to reverse the tragedy and protect the affected environments.
(Sources: BBC News, Fox News, Green Peace)