Have a closer look at this picture and figure out what is going on here:

Is this the soil on which trees should grow in the future?
This is the local dumping point of the Tulum Municipality

The local dumping point, just 10km west of town, is an open air site on top of a fragile limestone rock bed and cenote sinkholes, that gets all types of non-separated, non-recycled trash - tons of trash daily! This dumping point has been in use for decades now. It is occupying about 5 hectares of land. Tulum Municipality registered 28.263 inhabitants in 2010 census and the number is growing rapidly well over the country average. It is said that the dump site receives up to 200 tons of garbage during high season. It has no more than 1 year left to saturate!

Have a look at this recent newscast in youtube (Spanish audio):

Location on the map: 20.278954,-87.501732 (copy/paste link to google.maps)

Serious environmental problems arise from such a non-recycled trash dump operation, as well as its associated health risk hazards:
  • Fermented liquids (laechates or lixiviates) with pathogens drain directy into the fresh underground water which also feeds tourist attracting cenotes (sinkholes).
  • Gradient makes this contaminated fresh water flow into town and from there to the mangroves and the reef
  • The dump site is right next to a green house facility that grows vegetables for human consumption using underground water, adding several chemical enhancers to their plants, and later, sending back all this waste fluids to the aquifer.
  • The city of Tulum also has its fresh water wells placed very near to the dump site. This is the source for the town drinking water.

Liquids from organic compost are not the same as lixiviate liquids from un-separated trash in the dump! The fluids draining into the aquifer contain a high count of pathogen bacteria. These bacteria have to be below 100ppm in the water. If their concentration rises, above 200ppm, they become an infection hazard. Tulum´s Hotel Association has mentioned that the count is below the 100 ppm mark at the beaches so far. Drainage occurs easily due to our porous and cracked limestone rock bed. Altitude decreases from Coba, the next important town, towards Tulum and the  Caribbean sea. The dump is located about 14km from the sea. Tulum is about 12m above sea level. From there only 4km remain to the sea and there is nothing which stops the water from flowing down towards already depleted mangroves and the reef.

What happens to the dumping point when it saturates?

Currently there are several municipal solutions being analysed:
Installing a membrane lining and closing the dump as sanitary landfill is pending federal authorization from Mexico City. (Foro de Agua June, 2013. Tulum). A new dump site off the south exit of Tulum-Chetumal highway will be opened. Status is that environmental impact studies are being made by local INIRA institute (Instituto de Impacto y Riesgo Ambiental), and if approved the file will be passed for SEMARNAT(Federal Ministry of the environment and natural resources).

Will the project happen? Do we have a different land composition at the projected new site that will improve the old dump site situation? Why will it not affect underground water as well? Is the membrane lining for the new dump already considered and in the process of construction?

We will continue to research and discuss this important subject in the following article about the dump site.

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TULUM DUMPSTER HAS NO MORE THAN ONE YEAR LEFT TO SATURATE! by Mona Deutschmann, Juan Ayza is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at Mona Deutschmanndesign@monadeutschmann.de or Juan Ayzajuan.ayza@gmail.com.

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