Hueyapan Lake: polluted by pipeline spills. Hueyapan Lake: polluted by pipeline spills.

Petroleum theft has poisoned water source of 10,000 in Hidalgo

Brown, foul-smelling water comes out of the tap and is affecting residents' health

For at least two years residents of three communities in Hidalgo have been complaining about their water, which has become contaminated due to leaks caused by petroleum theft along the 50 kilometers of pipeline that traverses the area. 

The water source for the 10,000 residents of San Juan Hueyapan, Santa María Nativitas and Guadalupe Victoria is Hueyapan Lake, which is also where residents used to fish and swim, but now it smells of petroleum.

Residents had once considered their water to be pure and were accustomed to drinking out of the tap, but now that water comes out brown, full of sediment and foul-smelling, they say. 

“We began to notice because my mom had a headache and her stomach hurt, and she said to me ‘Hey, every time I come here and I drink water my tummy hurts.’ We noticed that when we put water in a tray or something it always remained dirty … as if it had mud,”  María Isabel Espinoza told the newspaper Milenio.

“People began to have hair loss problems, irritation, gastrointestinal problems, the situation is serious,” said resident Gavino Ortiz.

In November 2018, after authorities declined to take action, residents decided to block the flow of water from the lake to their homes to avoid becoming ill.

Officials suggested installing a pump to bring water in from another source, but because the municipality was in debt to the Federal Electricity Commission that option was discarded.

A neighboring community managed to build a separate system to bring water in, but it had to be abandoned after it was discovered that the source they were pumping from was also contaminated. 

In Guadalupe Victoria, residents must contend with brown, smelly water which stains any receptacle in which it is placed.

“The information that the municipality gives us is that the water is supposedly suitable for domestic use and I don’t know where domestic use would start because ultimately you brush your teeth and bathe with this water and many people continue to cook with it because they can’t afford to buy water for daily use,” said Guadalupe Elizalde.

In February, a judge ordered local, state and federal authorities to supply communities in the area with water “in quality and quantity,” but any progress toward that goal has been derailed by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Source: Milenio (sp)

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