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Current low standards of treated waste water killing local reefs

Playa del Carmen, Mexico – Healthy Reefs Mexico, the organization that promotes the treatment of waste water along the Yucatan Peninsula, says the local reef system is in critical condition and improvements are needed.

Marisol Rueda Flores, biologist and coordinator for Healthy Reefs Mexico, says, “There are many threats to the reef, one of the most critical being the treatment of waste water. Better management and water quality standards are needed for waste water that eventually ends up on the reef.

“Waste water containing nutrients cause a proliferation of macro-algae that competes directly with the coral, covering and smothering them.”

This year, the organization unveiled a report of the Mesoamerican Reef quality and found many areas where the reef was covered with macro-algae. The reef has been declared in critical state.

Rueda Flores says in regard to the reef, “that’s not very good,” because the waste water contains nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphate, and in addition to aiding the growth of algae, it reduces the oxygen concentration for the growth of the reefs.

He says that the government needs to adopt new measures as set out in the Cartagena Protocol, which provides higher standards for the quality of water reentering the sea.

Rueda Flores explains that “Many years ago, Mexico signed the Cartagena Protocol. We have been working with Conagua and CAPA to promote that NOM 001 is good for the country, but here, we have very specific conditions: underground karst, underground rivers and have to deal with different water situations.”

The treatment of waste water that enters the sea is based on the Official Mexican Norm 001 (NOM 001) guided by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. The current application enables between 75 and 100 units of enterococci per 100 milliliters of water.

NOM’s current standards enables the growth of large amount of enterococci – a lactic acid bacteria of the phylum Firmicutes — to grow over the reef system, covering it and eventually killing it. The Cartagena Protocol only allows 30 units of enterococci per 100 milliliters of water.

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