Contamination in El Salto, Mexico


The combination of untreated sewage, violation of environmental regulations by the Los Laureles landfill, illegal dumps and high concentrations of pollutants, recurring violations to health and safety rights, created serious environmental degradation in the municipalities of El Salto and Juanacatlán, Jalisco. While the Government failed to intervene, local citizens got organised and took action to properly address those issues. Several social movements and organizations reported increasing socio-environmental degradation, as well as water contamination caused by discharge of municipal and industrial wastewater, faulty practices at Los Laureles landfill, discharge of untreated dangerous substances, flue gas emissions by incinerators El Verde and El Castillo in an area without proper urban planning.

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Basic Data
NameContamination in El Salto, Mexico
SiteEl Salto, Juanacatlan
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Waste Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Water treatment and access to sanitation (access to sewage)
Specific CommoditiesWater

Industrial waste
Domestic municipal waste
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe river receives approximately 815 liters per second of raw municipal wastewater from the southern part of the Guadalajara Urban Area.

There are at least 1,500 factories in the El Salto-Ocotln Industrial Corridor. 266 out of 280 waste water discharges flow straight into the Santiago River.

The area hosts 7 illegal dumps, 5 illegal incinerators and other unregulated storage sites.

The Los Laureles landfill occupies 71 hectares of land that can never be used again, and receives 3,400 tons of waste produced daily by approx. 5 million people.

Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Potential Affected Population1500
Start Date1965
Company Names or State EnterprisesCaabsa Eagle
Salud y Ecologia del Nuevo Milenio S.A.
IBM Mexico
ZF Sachs Suspension S.A. from Germany
Quimikao from Japan
Hilasal Mexicana S.A.
Celanese Mexicana
Ciba Espacialidades Quimicas from Spain
Alen de Occidente
Industria de Acumuladores de Jalisco from Mexico
Sanchez y Martin Jabones
Nestle from Switzerland
Industria Ocatlan
Relevant government actorsSEMARNAT, Mexican Federal Government, PROFEPA, OCLSP, Secretara de Salud, CONAGUA, INE, Government of Jalisco, SEMADES
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersComit de Defensa Ambiental de El Salto A.C.MAPDER - Mexico, CEDMA - Mexico, Un Salto de Vida - Mexico, Un Salto a la Cultura - Mexico, Familias Unidas por la Vida - Mexico, IMDEC - Mexico, Fundacion Lerma-Chapala-Santiago-Pacifico, Juanacatln en Accion, Sociedad Amigos del Lago de Chapala - Mexico, IDEA - Mexico, Vecinos de la Comunidad de Juanacatl·n - Mexico, Comite pro-Defensa de Arcediano - Mexico, Amigos de la Barranca - Mexico, Ciudadanos por el Medio Ambiente - Mexico, Red Ciudadana - Mexico, VIDA - Mexico, Grupo Ecologista El Roble - Mexico
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
Informal workers
Local ejos
Social movements
Forms of MobilizationCommunity-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Fires, Genetic contamination, Global warming, Noise pollution, Soil erosion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths
Potential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
OtherA child, Miguel Angel Lopez Rocha, died in 208 by arsenic intoxication after falling in the polluted waters of the Santiago River.
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in violence and crime, Land dispossession
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseDeaths
Institutional changes
Application of existing regulations
Development of AlternativesThe complete restoration of the area and an economic compensation for the affected families.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Although the Government of the State accepts 69 out of 100 recommendations (establishing an environmental emergency in the municipalities of El Salto and Juanacatlan, identifying those areas in need of ecological restoration, taking proper care of ill people and implementing prevention and detection campaigns, approving a legislation for the treatment and re-utilization of water, providing more autonomy, a proper judicial status and further resources to the Agency for Environmental Protection, PROFEPA), the pollution in El Salto and Juanactlan continue being too high, and the affected families are not given a compensation yet.
Sources and Materials

The Industrial Development Law

the NOM-001-ECOL-1996 Act


Marco global de referencia para la accion jurdica en la defensa del medio ambiente. Los derechos humanos contra las represas y otros proyectos neoliberales. CIEPAC. 2005

(see attached file)

Defensa y gestion comunitaria del agua en al campo y la ciudad. Andres Barreda y Enrique Ortiz et. al. ITACA, hic-al, rls y Casifop. 2007

(see attached file)

Social and environmental crisis and death in El Salto, Jalisco. Graciela Gonzlez Torres. Third Health Promotion Forum and Meeting with students attending the Course Health, Environmental Crisis and Social Rights of the Universidad Autonoma, Mexico City. 2010

Justificacion encuesta calidad de vida. Gerri Compani y Nayeli. 2009


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Nadie hace nada por solucionar el caso de las plantas tratadoras de agua que siguen sin operar desde julio del 2009, y por donde desembocan aguas negras
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Vecinos de El Salto y Juanacatlán protestan por contaminación del río Santiago
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Impune ecocidio en el Río Santiago.

Other Documents

Marco global de referencia para la accion jurdica en la defensa del medio ambiente. Los derechos humanos contra las represas y otros proyectos neoliberales. CIEPAC. 2005
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorLucie Greyl
Last update08/04/2014