WASHINGTON - A variety of pollutants such as drugs, cocaine or pesticides leach into aquifers contained in the caves in the Yucatan peninsula, threatening to end development of the tourist region of Mexico, according to research released Sunday.
If nothing is done, this pollution could significantly worsen as the population should increase tenfold by 2030, warn the researchers whose work is published in the journal American Scientist, the Journal Environmental Pollution.
Polluted water also end up reaching the Caribbean Sea and this source of additional pollution may have contributed, in addition to over-fishing and climate change, the disappearance of 50% of coral reefs in the region since 1990, according to authors of this study.
"The results of this research clearly show the need to establish surveillance systems to identify sources of these pollutants in these aquifers," says Chris Metcalfe, professor at Trent University in Ontario (Canada) and researcher at Institute Water, environment and health, a UN agency based in Canada. He is the principal author of the study.
"Measures of prevention and mitigation are also essential to ensure that further development is not detrimental to the environment and human health, let alone the economy of this region based on tourism," says he.
The authors of this research have found that cocaine, drug substances and body care products found in water aquifers at four of the five places where they have taken samples from drains.
They also note that only one third of the Mexican state has a municipal water treatment.
Furthermore samples of water from a nearby golf course near a beach resort revealed as the source of pesticide contamination.
Finally, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, other polluting substance, found in these aquifers, from roads, parking lots and airport runways.
These researchers also note that the filtration process called "reverse osmosis" as used in the "Riviera Maya" for the treatment of drinking water "is not a technology to remove all micro-contaminants."
Although the level of pollution found in drinking water in this region today are not considered a threat to public health "measurements in this study have some concerns about the potential risk of contamination," say these researchers.
They recommend better sewer lines insulated, waterproof make septic tanks, land under the golf courses and other pollution sources.