A grower pulls a waterlogged plant from the floodwaters. A grower retrieves a waterlogged plant from the floodwaters.

Wastewater discharge tragedy for nurseries

Sewage floods 200 nurseries in Xochimilco borough of Mexico City

An overflow of wastewater caused by recent heavy rains in Mexico City has wreaked havoc on nurseries in the southern borough of Xochimilco, causing the loss of thousands of flowers in the lead-up to one of the industry’s busiest seasons.

Around 200 nurseries spread over 120 hectares of chinampas or floating gardens in the neighborhood of San Luis Tlaxialtemalco were flooded when a nearby sewage channel overflowed.

Many of the nurseries were growing flowers of the cempasúchil and nochebuena varieties — Mexican marigolds and poinsettias.

The yellow marigolds are commonly used in the creation of altars for Day of the Dead celebrations while the bright red flowers of the poinsettia plant are a Christmas favorite.

Growers had been tending their plants for up to seven months in preparation for sale. They depend on the income generated for their economic livelihoods and to be able to plant again the following year.

But when they returned to their nurseries after recent deluges, they were confronted not only with flooded bridges and walkways that made access difficult but also thousands of their potted plants floating lifelessly in fetid waters.

Dora Cruz’s nursery was one of the most affected. She lost more than 17,000 of her flowers including many of the popular seasonal varieties.

When ready for sale, the plants would have been worth around 593,000 pesos (US $33,500). While she faces economic devastation, she told the newspaper Milenio that the resulting shortage would also affect customers’ hip pockets.

“. . . it’s most likely that other people will take advantage of our misfortune and sell the product more expensively.”

Another grower, Mauricio Cruz, described the loss of his plants as a tragedy.

“We arrived and there were three [water] sources discharging water with rubbish and dead animals. It was then we realized that everything was lost . . . .”

His nursery is located about a kilometer from a regulating reservoir where untreated wastewater from three southern boroughs converges.

The 26-year veteran of the flower growing industry said that the loss of the plants has placed his family under financial stress, forcing one of his children to temporarily abandon his studies.

There are also concerns that soil will be contaminated and that raw sewage may pose a danger to human health. The stench worsens when the temperature rises.

After Mexico City Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera visited the affected area late last week his government announced that 14 million pesos (US $791,000) will be allocated to repair the damage. Government compensation for affected growers is expected to follow.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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