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Ecological disaster provokes outrage among local community

July 13, 2013

Local authorities have demanded strong action against those responsible for the death of thousands of fish at La Hurtado reservoir in Acatlan, Jalisco last week.

The environmental crisis occurred after an as-yet unidentified firm from Tlajomulco dumped 10,000 cubic meters of molasses in the reservoir.

Acatlan Mayor Emeterio Corona Vazquez said he was “outraged,” while Tlajomulco Mayor Ismael del Toro Castro called on investigators to “speed up the investigation in order to issue an arrest warrant” against those responsible.

With the Tlajomulco authorities having failed to adequately monitor the unlicensed company’s activities, del Toro has suspended without pay his director of ecology and the head of the civil protection and fire department for 15 to 30 days.

Magdalena Ruiz, the head of Jalisco’s environmental agency Semadet, revealed this week that the cleanup operation is 95-percent complete but had to be abandoned because the health of the 230 environmental workers was at risk. In total 532 tons of dead fish were removed, while the remaining five percent will be left to sediment in the reservoir.

The molasses, an organic by-product of the refining of sugarcane, will biodegrade naturally in the water with no chemical or toxic effects, Ruiz explained, but the problem is the lack of oxygen this process causes.

Felipe Tito Lugo, head of the State Water Commission, said that the next stage is to install 10 aerators in the Valencia dam to generate more oxygen. Ruiz said the water could be ready for agricultural use again by the end of the rainy season, while Lugo added that the reservoir may make a full recovery within the next two years.

The ecological disaster has not only affected the local aquatic life but also the birds that feed upon the fish – not to mention the 30 fishermen and 19 restaurant owners, plus their families, who were all reliant upon the reservoir as a source of fish.

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