San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Metal Waste Threatens Coastal Biodiviersity

Moderate to high concentrations of lead, iron, copper, zinc and radioactive metals threaten the biodiversity of Costa Rica’s Pacific coastline, including fish, algae and mollusks, according to researchers.

Information compiled by biologist María Elena Fournier for the 2005 State of the Nation report reveals high concentrations of copper, lead, iron and zinc in the water at Golfito Bay, in the country’s Southern Zone, where a large amount of hydrocarbons – emitted by fishing and recreational boats – have also been found in the water, according to the daily La Nación.

Research by oceanography experts Omar Lizano and Eric Alfaro shows moderate concentrations of metals exist in the Gulf of Nicoya, on the central Pacific coast, where concentrations of sulfur, from sewer water and toxic substances dumped into the water, have been found.

However, studies at Bahía Culebra, near the PapagayoPeninsula in the northern Pacific, show it is one of the country’s cleanest coastal zones, the daily reported.

The State of the Nation report warns that new hotels and a planned marina (TT, Jan. 6) could alter the condition of this bay, which is rich in coral.

On the country’s Atlantic coast, high concentrations of lead were reported and attributed to the proximity of a petroleum refinery to the port of Moín. This area has the advantage that a strong current disperses the particles and hydrocarbon residues, the report states.

Metal particles enter the human system directly after contaminated fish and mollusks are ingested, Dr. Darner Mora told La Nación.

Oceanographer Guillermo Quirós said that among the long-term effects of ingesting these metals are tumors, vision problems and problems with the nervous system.

Fish exposed to the metals suffer long term respiratory difficulties, death by asphyxia or poisoning.

Oceanographer Lizano has detected radioactive cesium at the mouth of the TárcolesRiver and Potassium-40 in the TivivesRiver, both in the Pacific province of Puntarenas, the daily reported.


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