By Mariana Gonzalez-Marquez
Guadalajara, Mexico, Jun 18 (EFE).- Finely ground eggshells are to be used in tandem with chemicals as part of an environmental group’s effort to reduce the high level of heavy metals in Mexico’s Santiago River.
The H2O organization is carrying out a campaign throughout the western state of Jalisco to collect at least four tons of eggshells for use in removing lead, mercury and other contaminants from the river, Bernardo Galan, the group’s representative in that state, told Efe on Friday.
Eggshells, magnesium oxide and calcium oxide are used to form a mixture that is inserted into the soil near the river and helps eliminate both fecal material and heavy metals.
“We pour our physical-chemical mixture into a trench that’s one meter wide and 10 meters deep, and that’s where the process takes place, he said, adding that metal absorption and mineral recovery occur during the rainy season.
The activist said that as much as 70 percent of the organic matter and up to 20 percent of the heavy metals and their contaminants can be absorbed.
A clean-up day is scheduled for August, when the environmental activists will “plant” 12 tons of the mixture near the Santiago River with the goal of achieving initial results within a year.
This technique was used last year to clean up several wells in Lerma, a town in Mexico state that is the source of the Lerma River.
Partial evaluations carried out to date by environmental activists and academics have confirmed a 60 percent reduction in organic material and a 25 percent drop in the amount of heavy-metal pollution in that portion of the Lerma River, although they will conduct a more thorough assessment in July.
Eggshells donated by ordinary citizens, beekeeping companies and Jalisco’s hotel sector are being taken to a processing center where they are dried naturally, ground into powder and subsequently stored.
According to H2O, the effort to clean up the Santiago River is important because of the large number of communities that are forced to use its polluted water and the kidney diseases and different types of cancer its residents have contracted over the past two decades.
One of those places is El Salto, a municipality where hundreds of people have died of kidney diseases caused by drinking the river’s polluted water and breathing in its toxic fumes.
A study carried out in 2010 by the Autonomous University of San Luis Potosi (funded by the Jalisco state government but kept secret for a decade) found lead, arsenic, benzene, cadmium and other poisonous heavy metals in the water and detected mercury in the bloodstreams of 98 percent of children in six communities located near the river.
Last year, the Washington DC-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights granted precautionary protection measures in favor of the inhabitants of areas near the banks of the Santiago River.
In a press release on Feb. 7, 2020, the IACHR said it deemed them “to be at serious, urgent risk of suffering irreparable harm to their human rights as a result of the alleged environmental pollution of the Santiago River and Lake Chapala in the state of Jalisco.” EFE