Pollution Turned This Jalisco River Into a Toxic Hell
Duncan Tucker - VICE News
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August 3, 2016

El Salto de Juanacatlán was once a majestic waterfall where locals would fish, bathe, and play. Today the air stinks of sulphur, yellow-tinged water cascades over the rocks, and clouds of bright white foam collect at the foot of the falls before drifting downstream.

After years of watching the authorities fail to acknowledge the seriousness of the problem, desperate locals are now intensifying their calls for action. They claim it is already too late for 628 locals who they say the pollution has killed in the last eight years. That includes 72 deaths in 2015, the worst year to date.

"My mother and two sisters died of cancer," said Samuel Álvarez, a pensioner with white stubble and few teeth, as he ambled down the town's uneven streets on his morning walk. "We used to live right next to the river and I think it was caused by them inhaling the industrial fumes every night."

The devastation of El Salto began in the 1970s as industries began to congregate in the now decrepit town located on the southeastern outskirts of Guadalajara, the second-largest city in Mexico and the capital of the state of Jalisco.

Today El Salto is home to over 300 businesses, including local and multinational electronics firms, automotive factories, chemical plants, pharmaceutical labs, and food and beverage companies. Many are suspected of illegally discharging toxic waste into the river, which also absorbs sewage from Guadalajara.

A 2015 report by the National Water Commission found that the Río Santiago, which winds 349 miles across western Mexico and through El Salto, is the country's most heavily polluted river.

A 2011 study by Jalisco's State Water Commission and the Mexican Institute of Water Technology detected 1,090 different pollutants in the river. They included arsenic, mercury, chromium, and hormone disruptors that can cause cancerous tumors, birth defects, and other developmental disorders.

Activists claim Jalisco health officials have sought to play down the link between pollution and health problems in the region.

Read the rest at VICE News

Photo: IMCINE-Tecolote Films/Eugenio Polgovsky

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