A spill of 3,000 liters of sulfuric acid at the Port of Guaymas, Sonora, into the Gulf of California last week caused significant damage to the gulf ecosystem, according to Reina Castro Longoria, a marine biology researcher at the University of Sonora and a substitute senator.
“The impact is undeniable, it was instant death for everything it touched; flora, fauna, the water, and the whole immediate area,” she told reporters. “And it will also cause damage elsewhere as it disperses. I don’t say this to cause alarm, but this kind of thing has a domino effect, and it will break the ecological balance in that area, because sulfuric acid is a highly corrosive substance.”
Grupo México, Mexico’s largest mining company and owner of the facility responsible for the spill, said the accident was too small to cause serious environmental damage.
Castro added that she thinks the government should suspend Grupo México’s mining concessions because of the spill and several other incidents.
Jaqueline García Hernández, an environmental science researcher at the Food and Development Research Center in Sonora, agrees with Grupo México that the effects of the spill will be limited, but says the situation should be closely monitored.
In an interview with the newspaper La Jornada, García said the acid was quickly diluted by seawater, and that any changes in pH were controlled and neutralized.
“It was a spill that had effects in the moment,” she said. “We took samples to see if there was damage when the acid spilled, and 10 fish died. We will keep monitoring the spill site.”
García added that deaths of more fish or birds in the area is unlikely.
According to the environmentalist group Poder, the Guaymas spill is the 14th accident at a Grupo México facility. In 2014, a company mine spilled 40,000 cubic meters of copper sulfate acid solution into two rivers in Sonora, causing extensive environmental damage.