How Bad Is The Acid Spill in Mar de Cortés?

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After the spill of three thousand liters of sulfuric acid due to a fault in the pipes of Grupo México, an oceanographer explains the repercussions on marine life

On July 9, a fault in the valves of the pipes freed three thousand liters of sulfuric acid in the Sea of ​​Cortez. This compound is used for the manufacture of other acids, fertilizers, explosives, paints, lacquers and varnishes among others and is classified as corrosive. “Sulfuric acid is dangerous. It is corrosive to metals, and in the skin it causes severe burns and eye injuries “, explains Nicolle Ashley González Luz, Chemistry Pharmacobiology of the UNAM. According to the Chemical Safety Data Sheet of the UNAM, the effects of acute exposure in humans are: Irritation of the throat, nose and eyes, lips, nails and skin turn blue. May cause cough, dizziness, fever, speech problems, vomiting, nausea, precipitous increase or decrease in blood pressure, pulmonary edema, loss of vision, difficulty breathing, body weakness and chest pain, risk of blindness, respiratory disorders. Requires review by a specialist toxicology doctor.

The acid in contact with the sea “When sulfuric acid comes into contact with water, it reacts violently. In animals, mutagenic and teratogenic effects have been reported. Also, it changes the pH of seawater, which is detrimental to marine life, “says Nicolle González. 

The acid reduces the pH of water and compounds such as carbonates, these molecules are used by organisms such as corals to form their bodies or colonies. There is also a significant reduction in oxygen. 

Aquatic organisms get oxygen from the water through their gills, when the acid mixes with the water it eliminates plant life because it becomes acidic, when marine animals come into direct contact they can suffer diseases or even die.

“The consequences of this spill can be observed in the following days and weeks, there will surely be a terrible mortality, mainly in animals that do not have the ability to flee as sessile organisms (which have no movement), barnacles, oysters, sea fans and also in slow-moving animals such as snails, sea cucumbers, clams, “explains Dr. Octavio Aburto Oropeza, a research professor at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. 

The tragedy at ocean level

The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat) and the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (Profepa) will assess the damage and the damage to the bay. The expert in oceanography adds that: “In these cases, the impact at the local and regional level should be analyzed, in terms of the local part, what can happen where the spill was, surely there will be many consequences and that the animals can they did not have the capacity to flee quickly. “

“In macro terms these 3 thousand liters are diluted in a very large volume of water and as the tides move, all that will continue to be diluted. It is a much smaller amount compared to the volume of sea water -explains the expert- although the affectation is of short term and does not affect the population, but it does not reduce the fault that this company has for not having the highest security protocols, besides that they did not have the mechanisms to avoid that the affectation was much smaller. ” 

How Bad Is The Acid Spill in Mar de Cortés

Problems five years ago

This accident of Grupo Mexico is not the first, 4 years ago this company poured toxic substances into the Sonora River, this accident was the cause of many demands and there was an impact on the population. The company was fined and forced to create a trust to repair the damage caused by the spillage of 40 thousand cubic meters of acidulous copper sulfate from one of its main deposits on a river in the north of the country. 

“If this company has this permission to operate, it must also have the highest safety standards. The affectation, even if it is local and of short term, has to be considered as a great environmental damage “, concludes the expert.

 

Source: dossier politico