By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The mud mixed with contaminated water that spilled from the dams near Mariana, Minas Gerais on November 5th, has reached the Brazilian coastline, affecting the waters of Espirito Santo state. The municipality of Linhares has placed warning sites on the sand stating that beaches are not safe for swimming.
According to Brazil’s Environment Minister, Izabella Teixeira, the mud should be spread over a nine-kilometer stretch of coastline. The official admits that many species of fish and plants will die due to the contaminated mixture.
“There are protective barriers and this will help minimize the impact on fauna, but we will see significant damage (to the region),” said Teixeira to journalists after surveying the area. “There is still a lot of mud coming down the river. We will be monitoring it for the next 90 to 120 days,” added the government official.
In what is being called the worst environmental catastrophe in Brazil’s history, more than sixty million cubic meters of residues from the Samarco mining plants flooded the small municipality of Bento Rodrigues on November 5th, after two dams collapsed. Since then the toxic mud has been making its way down the Rio Doce River traveling at least five hundred kilometers towards the Atlantic Ocean.
The beaches of Regencia and Povoação have been closed off and residents who survive on tourism and fishing are likely to be severely affected by the accident. According to local news reports, many bed & breakfast facilities have already started to close and tourists who planned to spend Christmas and summer vacation in the region have been canceling reservations.