Pilcomayo river under environmental threat in northern Argentina
Authorities in the Argentine province of Salta have issued a recommendation not to bathe, fish, or drink water from the Pilcomayo river pending studies undertaken by the Secretariat of Water Resources after the collapse of a dam in Bolivia.
Until the results of lab tests of water samples are known, the Government of the province of Salta together with the federal Secretariat of Federal Security recommended not to bathe, fish, or consume water and fish from the Pilcomayo river, after the collapse of a tailings dam in Potosí, Bolivia, and the subsequent spill of mining sediments.
The authorities said the recommendation applied to the portion of the river between Landmark 1 and the border with the province of Formosa until the presence of contaminating material is confirmed or ruled out.
According to Salta’s El Tribuno, the spill occurred on July 23, when a tailings dam of the Federación Departamental de Cooperativas Mineras (Fedecomin), which extracts silver and zinc in an artisanal way, collapsed about seven kilometers from the city of Potosí.
The publication detailed that these unrecovered minerals and chemical elements and reached the Rivera river and the Tarapaya ravine, which connect to the Pilcomayo and the contaminants are feared to be reaching the Argentine side in the next few days, with no official response from Bolivian authorities in this regard.
Salta Secretary of Water Resources Mauricio Romero told Télam that due to the distances between Potosí and the international border, it is possible that this incident does not affect the riverbed in the provincial territory.
It should be considered that metals tend to be absorbed in the sediments of the river and extracted from the aqueous phase. Therefore, their arrival depends on the speed of dragging of these sediments from the upper basin to our territory which, at this time of the year, is of lower speed because it is the low water season. In addition, it must be taken into account that the transfer is not linear.
Salta’s Secretariats of Social Policies and of Indigenous Affairs are assisting native families in the area with children between 6 months and 7 years old, pregnant women from the third month on, and people with disabilities and elderly people to whom 5,000 food modules were delivered.