By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The size of the mud spill from the Samarco dam brake in Mariana has tripled in size along the coastline of Espirito Santo state since Sunday, said environmental groups monitoring the effects of the spill. According to these groups there is no forecast of when the contaminated mud will cease entering the Atlantic Ocean.

Brazil, Mud from the Samarco dam reached the Atlantic Ocean in mid-November,
Mud from the Samarco dam reached the Atlantic Ocean in mid-November, photo by Fred Loureiro/Secom-ES.

“It will all depend on the speed that these margins are recovered, so that this material can stay where it is, otherwise every time it rain hard in the upper and medium Rio Doce (Sweet River) we will see material being dumped in the sea,” Paulo Rosman, professor of coastal engineering at Rio de Janeiro’s Federal University (Coppe/UFRJ) said to Agencia Brasil news agency.

The monitoring of the spill, considered the worst environmental disaster in Brazilian history, is made by Ibama (Brazilian Environment and Renewable Natural Resources Institute), ICMBio (Chico Mendes Biodiversity Institute) and Iema (Espirito Santo’s Environmental Institute). The mud reached the coastline of Espirito Santo on November 21st.

The toxic water, which spilled from the collapsed dam on November 5th, produced an estimated 50,000 tons of mud, which ran along the Rio Doce (Sweet River) all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. Towns along the river had their drinking water supply temporarily cut off due to possible contamination and entire communities of fishermen have been unable to work because of the contamination of fish and sea life.

More than sixty million cubic meters of residues from the Samarco mining plants flooded the small municipality of Bento Rodrigues on November 5th, after one of its dams collapsed. Samarco is a joint venture between Brazil’s Vale and Anglo-Australian BHP Billinton.


  1. This ought to be good news. The heavy rains are increasing the flow into the ocean, which is far more able to deal with the mud than the riverside cultures themselves. The word “toxic” in relation to the water that spilled from the dam is controversial, as both Samarco and the Brazilian federal government deny there are any toxins. There’s lots of mineral residue, but that’s not toxic.


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