The new bright pink colour of the Corfo lagoon in Argentina may look pretty but the reason behind the recent colour change is anything but. According to experts and activists, pollution from the local fishing industry in Trelew in the Chubut Province of southern Patagonia is to blame for the unnatural colour of the lagoon’s water.
1. A polluting industry
The pollution causing the colour change apparently comes from a chemical used to preserve prawns for export, sodium sulphite. The anti-bacterial product is used in fish factories, and activist say the waste from these is contaminating the Chubut river, which feeds the Corfo lagoon and other water sources in the region. Fishing is a huge industry in Chubut, a province with around 600,000 residents, and creates thousands of jobs. There are dozens of foreign fishing companies operating in the area in waters under Argentina’s Atlantic jurisdiction. There are many plants that process fish for export, the main products being prawns and hake.
These are multi-million-dollar profit companies that don’t want to pay freight to take the waste to a treatment plant that already exists in Puerto Madryn, 35 miles away, or build a plant closerFederico Restrepo, environmental engineer and virologist
2. Conflict with locals
Runoff from the companies in Trelew industrial park flows into the Corfo lagoon, and this is not the first time the lagoon has turned bright pink. It is not used for recreation, and for a long time local residents have been complaining of foul smells and other environmental issues around the Chubut river and the lagoon. They have had enough of the situation, and recently residents of Rawson, a city neighbouring Trelew, blocked roads used by trucks carrying processed fish waste through their streets on their way to treatment plants on the outskirts. As Rawson was inaccessible due to the protest, provincial authorities granted factories to instead dump their waste in the Corfo lagoon, polluting its waters.
Speaking to AFP, environmental engineer and virologist Federico Restrepo blamed the sodium sulphite in fish waste, which by law should be treated before being dumped, for the lagoon’s colour change. However, environmental control chief for Chubut province, Juan Micheloud, argued against this, assuring AFP that the reddish colour does not do any damage and will go away within days. Planning secretary for the city of Trelew, Sebastian de la Vallina, disagreed saying, “It is not possible to minimise something so serious.” The lake has remained pink for several days. Meanwhile locals such as Pablo Lada, an environmental activist who lives in Trelew, are unhappy. He believes the government are to blame for not protecting the people by allowing the companies to poison them. “These are multi-million-dollar profit companies that don’t want to pay freight to take the waste to a treatment plant that already exists in Puerto Madryn, 35 miles away, or build a plant closer” he told AFP.