Border Forum Insights & Perspectives
Borderlands activist and freelance writer Richard Boren, currently based in
Tucson, AZ, offers an update on developments related to the CYTRAR
waste dump in Hermosillo, Sonora.
The campaign by a coalition of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and residents of Hermosillo, Sonora, against
the CYTRAR toxic waste dump continues at full speed. The coalition is concerned that the dump’s construction is
unsafe, especially given the site’s proximity to Hermosillo. Mexican federal law requires that hazardous waste dumps
be located at least 25 kilometers from city limits, whereas CYTRAR is about 6 kilometers from Hermosillo’s municipal
On April 26, dump opponents attempted to set up another blockade at the facility’s entrance but they were
immediately dislodged by 100 police. This incident comes after the NGOs successfully blocked and shut down
CYTRAR for 37 days earlier this year. After the first blockade attempt, the NGO coalition filed a complaint with the
State Commission of Human Rights saying that they had been physically abused by the police who removed them.
On April 30, the NGOs finally reached an agreement with authorities of the State of Sonora to conduct a joint
inspection of CYTRAR. The NGOs have been fighting for this right for several months. The agreement will allow
members of the NGO coalition to take part in an inspection of the dump site along with local and state officials.
Sonora’s Governor, Armando López Nogales, told El Imparcial newspaper on May 1 that the inspection and resulting
study will show if the disposal facility is complying with all Mexican environmental laws or not, and if it is shown that
CYTRAR is not in compliance with those laws, the site will be closed.
Dr. Germán Ríos Barceló, one of the leaders of the NGO coalition, states: "Finally there seems to be a change in
attitude among state officials. They seem to want to resolve this issue without the intervention of federal authorities.
We welcome that change."
Despite this positive development, in early May members of the NGO coalition alerted the media to train gondola
cars carrying open and broken bags of highly toxic slag from the Alco Pacifico plant in Tijuana to CYTRAR. The
gondolas lacked any cover, leaving the slag exposed to the elements. The discovery caused an uproar in Hermosillo
and resulted in federal environmental officials taking the unprecedented step of ordering that the slag be returned
to Tijuana. CYTRAR officials, meanwhile, have threatened to sue the NGO coalition, claiming that they opened the
bags. NGO representatives are closely monitoring the situation to ensure that the waste is returned to Tijuana.