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Approximately 75% of the wastewater produced in the municipality of Bacalar, in Mexico's Quintana Roo state, is discharged into the emblematic Siete Colores lagoon, one of the state's main tourist attractions, according to local daily La Jornada Maya.
Only 25% of the 3,250 households in Bacalar are connected to the sewerage system, mayor Alexander Cetina was reported as saying.
Cetina added that, according to Quintana Roo state's water and sanitation utility CAPA, only 229 households have paid to connect to the local sewerage system, while the remaining households argue that they lack the funds to pay for connection and thus have to use rudimentary cesspools.
Wastewater leaks out of the cesspools, particularly during the rainy season, polluting the neighboring lagoon, the mayor said. He stated that the municipal government does not have enough funds to connect all of the local homes to the sewage system and said that he has formally requested funds from the state's environment ministry in order to purchase biodigestors that can be placed in local homes to avoid further discharges of untreated effluents into the lagoon.
Local activist Ricargo García cited a 2015 study from the ecology institute of Mexico's national autonomous university (UNAM) that correlated increasing tourist activity in Bacalar with the rise in pollution in the Siete Colores lagoon. He pointed out that the pollution not only has negative effects on public health, but can also pose a significant risk to the region's environment.
The 42km-long Bacalar Lagoon is renowned for its striking blue color and water clarity. It is fed by underground rivers like most of the bodies of water in the Yucatán peninsula.
Earlier in the year, local NGOs announced that an estimated 70% of rivers in Mexico are polluted to some degree due to illegal dumping and inadequate wastewater treatment.