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Illegal pipeline tapping pollutes San Juan River in Mexico

An illegal oil tap has been blamed for a spill that contaminated a 14-mile stretch of the San Juan River in the Nueva Leon state in northern Mexico. Mexico’s environmental protection agency Profepa puts the blame on criminal gangs attempting to steal the oil from a pipeline.

According to Profepa, the rupture occurred when theives attempted to to tap into state-owned Pemex’s 24-inch Madero-Cadereyta pipeline.  The pipeline pumps oil to the company’s refinery in Cadereyta.

300 workers from Pemex were dispatched to the site to begin the clean-up operation. Residents living near the contaminated area were warned not to eat fish or use water from the river. Bottled water was distributed to the communities affected. The spill is expected to take two to three months to clean up.

Earlier this month, Shale Plays Media wrote about the constant struggle that the Mexican oil industry has had with the criminal cartels, who are tapping into oil pipelines as fast as Pemex is able to plug them. Pemex workers are vulnerable targets in cartel territory, and to operate safely they must travel with a military escort.  The Vice News report “Cocaine and Crude” follows a group of soldiers as they escort oil workers to patch an illegal tap.

Organized crime in Mexico has shifted away from smuggling drugs and towards smuggling oil, which has resulted in a dramatic increase in illegal tapping in recent years. The rampant theft presents an enormous danger to the environment and people living near pipelines. In December 2010, a botched oil tapping attempt resulted in an explosion that killed 28 people in San Martin Texmelucan, Mexico.

This spill occurred just weeks after 10 million gallons of mining acid spilled into the Senora River in Mexico. The spill occurred after a Grupo Mexico tailings pond, which is essentially a large pool for waste, burst and spilled into the river.

Related: Vice News documents Mexican oil workers combating pipeline siphoning (VIDEO)

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