Tuesday Jun 28, 201103:16 PM GMT
Chemicals kill Mexico coral reefs
Sun Feb 6, 2011 7:12PM
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This pristine image from Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula shows a sinkhole, which allows surface water to be transferred to underground pockets of water known as aquifers. AFP Photo
A new study links the contamination of a giant aquifer under Mexico's Riviera Maya to the loss of up to 50 percent of coral reefs in the Caribbean since 1990.

The Journal of Environmental Pollution released a study stating that pharmaceutical, pesticide, and other chemical run-off from highways have infiltrated the region's giant aquifer network, AFP reported.

Existing sinkholes -- depressed areas allowing the transfer of surface water to the underground passages -- have likely provided routes for the contaminated water to enter the sea.

“These findings clearly underline the need for monitoring systems to pin-point where these aquifer pollutants are coming from," said Chris Metcalfe of the United Nations University's Institute for Water, Environment and Health.

Researchers believe the sources of these pollutants are pit latrines, septic tanks and leaking sewer lines, stressing that just one-third of the state is served by municipal wastewater treatment systems.

Samples taken from an area close to a golf course on a seaside resort revealed the pesticide contamination of the area, while polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons run-off had likely entered the groundwater from highways, parking lots, airport tarmac, and other solid surfaces.

Other contributing factors to the large-scale destruction of coral reefs in the Caribbean -- which houses nearly one-third of the world's coral reef habitat -- include overfishing, coral diseases, and rising water temperatures.

“As well, prevention and mitigation measures are needed to ensure that expanding development does not damage the marine environment and human health and, in turn, the region's tourism-based economy," Metcalfe added.

Located on the Yucatan Peninsula, the Riviera Maya is a popular tourist destination.

The 10-fold estimated increase in the population by 2030 will likely worsen the pollution problem, the study added.

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