Merida, Yucatan — They are a team of only two, three counting their computer, but they make themselves heard as if there were hundreds of them.
Chemical engineer Humberto Reyes Montiel and sociologist José Luis Rivera Paz began their crusade against contaminated water 18 months ago. They have been featured in the local media dozens of times and their Facebook page, which translates to “The Rotten Water of Mérida” has over 1,000 followers. They have distributed between 3,000 to 4,000 flyers denouncing the problem and demanding solutions.
Through their civic association, Ciudadanos Hartos (Fed Up Citizens), they have also filed citizen complaints to the mayor, governor, secretary of the environment, secretary of health, Conagua, Japay, Semarnat and President Andres Manuel López Obrador.
Being media savvy, they have demand solutions in 68 press releases and two underwater videos. But lawmakers have not been responsive.
“We are facing a collapse and institutional atrophy from the authorities,” says Reyes Montiel.
For Reyes Montiel and Rivera Paz, the diagnosis is very clear: the Yucatan’s water table has fecal contamination up to 10 meters deep, agrochemicals at 40 meters, as well as leachate from the municipal dump.
“The state secretary of sustainable development, Sayda Rodríguez Gómez, invited us to give us a report of what they plan to do, an invitation that we do not accept because the explanation is due to Merida citizens, not us,” says Reyes Montiel. “We are not Merida, we are two citizens demanding solutions.”
Reyes Montiel says that they visited the state Congress and were surprised that legislators seemed unaware of the problem. They were told by lawmakers that technically, Merida’s water is fine because the water utility drills to 45 meters where there is clean water, which is then purified.
“But that happens in Mérida. In the villages, Japay (the water utility) does not drill at that depth, but only until they find water,” he said. In the countryside, villagers are offered “potable” water with organochlorine particles,” or pesticides with chlorinated aromatic molecules, says Reyes Montiel.
Echoing studies from the Doctor Hideyo Noguchi Regional Research Center, Dr. Ángel Polanco Rodríguez states that cervical, breast, blood and congenital malformations, among other diseases, have been documented and linked to poor water.
The activists denounce what they call “epidemiological silence” and the manipulation of data that whitewashes the crisis.
“We have statements from doctors who receive instructions on what to report and what not,” they say.
Source: La Jornada Maya