Sulfuric acid spill was bigger than declared
Grupo México has repeatedly been involved in environmental accidents – Photo: Terray Sylvester/REUTERS

Sulfuric acid spill was bigger than declared

Amalia Escobar / Corresponsal
Mexico City
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Last week, Grupo México spilled a significant amount of sulfuric acid into the Sea of Cortés. Although they reported the spill was of 3,000 liters of the acid, their reports and times do not match, suggesting that the spill was bigger than declared

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An employee of the Guaymas Integral Port Administration (Apiguay) revealed that the spill of sulfuric acid into the Sea of Cortés by Grupo México lasted for more than half an hour and that it was not just a small leak of 3,000 liters, as the company reported.

The employee, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of being dismissed, declared that the environmental authorities and the consortium ignore the amount of spilled sulfuric acid, because the employees only perform the connections of transfer and leave the place.

He told to EL UNIVERSAL that last July 9th, after midday, they noticed the presence of the leak when the acid had already had contact with the sea.

This testimony matches in parallel with the report of the congressman from Sonora, Carlos Navarrete Aguirre, who alleged that the report of the company and Apiguay does not match with the actual time of when the contingency was registered.

“If the times do not match, it is because there were two spills, or it was one, but it lasted for an hour and 12 minutes,” said the congressman.

The report from Apiguay confirmed that on Tuesday, July 9th, a spill of sulfuric acid happened in the facilities of Grupo Mexico and established: “Being the 13:45h, during the works of testing and draining (pipeline washing) protocols, which are performed before every loading operation, a failure was detected in the valves of the pipelines of Grupo Mexico, which transported sulfuric acid; at 13:50h, employees of Grupo México proceeded to close the valves.”

For its part, Grupo México accepted the spill on its Guaymas marine terminal, and informed that near 15:00h an event occurred, which caused the spill of sulfuric acid because of the failure of a valve, which in turn caused the liberation of 3,000 liters of the acid. The next day, July 10th, Mexico Federal Environmental Protection Agency (PROFEPA) gave the company a period of five days to generate the case in order to issue a verdict.

The fear.
The administrator of Apiguay, Abraham Larios Velázquez, said to local congressmen Carlos Navarrete and Magdalena Uribe, that Profepa has yet to issue a verdict to determine if there is a reason for sanction based on the resolutions, but for the moment, there are “no red lights.”

Subsequently, the legislators met with fishermen from Guaymas and Empalme, who expressed with concern that the sale of marine products has fallen up to 95% due to the belief that the species are polluted.

The legislators made an inspection tour in and out of Apiguay, through the Sea of Cortés in the area of the spill, where they alleged a series of anomalies.

The secretary of the Energy, Environment and Climate Change Commission in the Congress of Sonora, Carlos Navarrete, reported that the pipelines where sulfuric acid is transported are corroded and there is acid rain in the area. In addition, he said that the merchant ship Yoga, was loaded with wheat, in the same area were the sulfuric acid and other dangerous products are transferred. The congressman made a call to the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) and the PROFEPA to issue a statement of the real situation in the Sea of Cortés, and to the Federal Commission for the Protection Against Sanitary Risks (COFEPRIS) to inform if the species are fit for human consumption.

As of now, the SEMARNAT has just said that Grupo México has been involved in 22 accidents that damage the environment, which is an inadmissible situation, and that it will issue a declaration after thorough investigation.



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