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Government of Mexico updates 25-year-old wastewater discharge policy since “70 percent of surface waters in the country are contaminated”

Mexico City, Mexico — The Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources says an update will be made in the wastewater discharge policy, a policy that has not been modified in 25 years.

The government agency says that the National Consultative Committee for the Standardization of the Environment and Natural Resources (Comarnat) approved the update of the Official Mexican Standard NOM-001-SEMARNAT -2021, “which establishes the permissible limits of pollutants in wastewater discharge in receiving bodies owned by the nation, for which it will be published in the Official Gazette of the Federation.”

The Ministry said the new Standard will replace the one that has been in place since 1996, noting “the Maximum Permissible Limits (MPL) and the established parameters had proven to be insufficient to control contamination in water bodies,” adding that the Federal Law on Metrology and Standardization establishes that the Standards must be updated every 5 years.

Faced with this breach in past administrations, the head of Semarnat, María Luisa Albores González, instructed the agency she heads, through the Undersecretariat of Environmental Promotion and Regulations, to coordinate with the National Water Commission (Conagua) and with the Mexican Institute of Water Technology (IMTA) to push the pertinent work needed to conclude the process of modification of NOM-001-SEMARNAT-1996 and update its content as it is a priority issue for the Government of Mexico.

The Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources points out that “70 percent of surface waters in the country are contaminated or heavily polluted, according to data from Dr. Omar Arellano Aguilar, a specialist in ecotoxicology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.”

The technical limits of the current Standard are not only obsolete, but also do not correspond to the current problem of water quality in Mexico, thereby violating the human right of the population to have quality water.

The main modifications of NOM-001 refer to the parameters of true color, temperature, chemical oxygen demand and toxicity. Regarding temperature, NOM-001-SEMARNAT-2021 establishes 35 degrees as the maximum temperature for river discharges, lowering the parameter by five degrees of the existing 1996 NOM.

Secretary María Luisa Albores is urging the environmental sector to carry out this process, after years of non-compliance by past administrations.

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