Brazilian Rivers Poisoned

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Posted by Sadie from ? ( on Tuesday, April 22, 2003 at 12:51PM :

In Reply to: Update on Global Fresh Water Supply posted by Sadie from ? ( on Tuesday, April 22, 2003 at 12:06PM :

Another event not mentioned in the U.S. news. I wonder which corporation was responsible for this mess? & why blame the Brazilian government? The *company* should be the one monitoring its spill & leakages!
Nature 422, 552 (10 April 2003)
Chemical catastrophe poisons Brazilian rivers

[RIO DE JANEIRO] A major chemical spill has cut off the water supply to half a million citizens around Rio de Janeiro.

Caustic soda began leaking from a wood-pulping factory on 28 March, according to the environmental group WWF-Brazil. More than 1.2 billion litres had emptied into two rivers the Paraibo do Sul and Pomba before the leak was shut off three days later. Caustic soda, or sodium hydroxide, is used in paper mills at concentrations of 50% or higher, according to Mary DeVany, president of DeVany Industrial Consultants in Vancouver, Washington. "At 50% concentration, it has a pH of 14. A 10% solution will eat the skin right off your body," she says.

Locals have been told not to drink or bathe in water from the rivers, and the rise in pH is killing plants and animals living in or near the affected water. WWF-Brazil says the incident shows that the government is unable to deal with such accidents, as the spill would have been spotted by the water-monitoring systems in use in other countries.

-- Sadie
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