Fecal contamination shuts down Dzibilchaltún cenote

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
The Xlacah cenote in 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

After a year-long dispute with the local ejido, the archaeological site of Dzibilchaltún opened its gates to visitors. 

But one of the site’s most popular attractions, the Xlacah cenote, will remain closed until further notice.

The cenote was first closed when the first wave of COVID-19 hit Yucatán in March 2020.

But now INAH and environmental authorities have decided to keep the Xlacah cenote closed, as it is apparently heavily contaminated with feces. 

How exactly the cenote became contaminated is unknown, but it wasn’t from visitors. The popular swimming spot has been closed for well over a year. 

The news has angered Yucatecos, some of whom are blaming members of the local ejido unhappy with the government retaking control of Dzibilchaltún.

Earlier: Exploring Dzibilchaltún is easiest for early birds

But several members of the ejido, as well as surrounding communities, argue that responsibility for the pollution falls on real estate developers who have allowed contaminated water to seep into the groundwater. 

“This is clearly the fault of all those irresponsible real estate development companies,” said Ethel Yamille Dzul, of Chablekal’s ejido, in a comment on Facebook

Dzibilchaltún’s Xlacah cenote is home to several species of flora, as well as fish. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Because the land in Yucatán is so porous, polluted water often makes its way to the water table before it has had a chance to break down.

Concerns regarding pollution in Yucatán’s cenotes are nothing new but have in recent years apparently grown worse.

Also contributing to the problem is the fact that Yucatán has become one of the largest pork producers in the country. 

Mexico’s Supreme Court recently ordered the closure of a pig farm which if allowed to reach its full capacity would have raised 50,000 animals, each producing several times the amount of solid waste of a human being.

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