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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Man dies in hill of polluted soap suds in Mexico

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A man trying to take a selfie next to a towering hill of soap suds floating atop a heavily polluted stream in Mexico was found dead Friday, five days after he fell into the quivering mass and disappeared.

Authorities in the central state of Puebla had used fire hoses and large fans to try to clear the towering mound of suds 20 feet (6 meters) high, without luck.

Authorities say excess detergents from homes that drain into streams feeding the Valsequillo reservoir caused the suds to accumulate. The streams also carry all sorts of household waste and the toxic brew finds its way into the Atoyac River.

Photos of the attempted rescue Monday showed emergency personnel trying to penetrate into the hill of suds that towered far over their heads.

But after a full day of work, the local civil defense office said it was barely able to locate the man’s compact car; he was not in it.

After that, authorities began looking further downstream.

On Friday, local residents in the town of Tecamachalco, almost 30 miles (50 kilometers) downstream from where he fell in, alerted authorities about a body in the stream.

Tecamachalco spokesman Cristian Medina said an ID card found on the body suggested it was the man who fell in last Sunday. Officials had not yet official released his name.

Medina said that because of the way currents flow, it was not unusual for authorities to find bodies, apparently of crime or accident victims, in the polluted stream during seasonal summer rains.

A local conservation group that combats pollution in the Atoyac river basin said this was not the first time that hills of detergent suds had formed on the waterway.

The Stand Up for The Atoyac group distributed photos of similar soap mounds from 2015 and said a person walking his dog lost the animal in the hill of suds that year.

The Atoyac River basin also is plagued by massive discharges from textile plants and factories, as well as open sewers and drains.

The problem is so bad that at some points upstream, the river turns blue at times because of discharges of wastewater from blue jean factories.

Environmental groups say that the suds carry a disturbing range of toxic chemicals and waste.

In 2017 a government said the pollution represented a violation of residents’ human rights.

“The problem of toxic suds is not new,” according to Stand Up for The Atoyac. “The lack of government oversight, the utter lack of standards in detergents and the lack of technology and legal acumen on the part of local governments means that the problem is only getting worse.”

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