Monthly Archives: May 2008

On The Road in The USA

Okay, I haven’t posted in a spell. The reason is I have been very busy working on the last issue of El Calendario for the season AND getting ready to take a 2 week trip to Florida to attend a family wedding. I am writing this from Winter Park, FL right now.

I do have some info to share and will try to post more before the end of the month. I won’t be in full blog swing again until after June 4 when I return to Todos Santos.

Thanks to Allie for letting me know how much some people depend on my rambling musings of life in Todos Santos, Baja, Mexico.

The “Carcamo” Spills Into The Ocean

The “carcamo” is the holding area for Todos Santos’ sewage, otherwise known in English as a cesspool. We don’t have a treatment plant and rather than pipe the sewage directly into the ocean, there is a large holding area just north of La Cachora where the solids are allowed to settle and the liquids evaporate or filter into the earth. As the town has grown, so has usage of the sewer system (actually only the center of town is connected to the sewer system – outlying areas such as Las Tunas, rely on septic systems.) The “carcamo” has been dangerously full for many months now, sometimes with liquid seeping through the dunes which hold it back from the ocean. On these occasions, bulldozers have been used to reinforce the dunes.

On May 6 or 7, the dune gave way and the “carcamo” flowed across the beach and into the ocean. My friend and fellow photographer Alvaro Colindres documented the breach on May 8 and sent me some photos. I personally explored the area on May 9, taking my own photos. I have walked the beach north to beond Calle Internacional in Las Tunas and there is evidence the pollution has reached at least that far. The beach has dark stains and plants that were growing in the “carcamo” are strewn on the beach. Unfortunately, there are oyster beds all along this area. I am certain that the water will be clear within a short period of time, perhaps a week or two, but the oyster beds may be polluted for quite some time to come. I am not knowledgeable enough to know for sure, but I will not be eating local oysters for the forseeable future, nor will I eat any local seafood for a couple of weeks minimum. It is also not known how far north and south the pollution extends, either on the beaches or in the water.

This article was anonymously sent to El Calendario. I have edited it for grammer and clarity only. As far as I know it is factually correct. If something is in error, I am not aware of it, but I don’t claim to have the final word.

Some time between 9 AM, May 6 and the afternoon of May 7, 2008 the Todos Santos sewage evaporation pond(aka the “carcamo”) broke it’s boundaries and overflowed on to the beach and in to the Pacific ocean. For approximately forty years raw, untreated sewage of the town has been pumped into the “carcamo”. The “carcamo” covers an area approximately 100 yards by 50 yards and is approximately nine feet deep. The entire contents of this space have emptied onto the beach so that an area on the beach approximately 400 yards by 50 yards is contaminated by the plants and black water which were previously contained in the pond. The contaminants which flowed into the ocean have washed up on the shore as far south as the La Poza estuary and as far north as the El Posito boca. At present the sewage is still being pumped into the pond space and is flowing directly on to the beach. (NOTE: the breach has been plugged since this was written and raw sewage is no longer flowing directly onto the beach.)

This event has created a potential health hazard. Following hurricane Julietta which struck some seven years ago there was an outbreak of hepatitis at the beach of Los Cerritos. This and other potential health hazards may now face the community of Todos Santos. Local lore maintains that the oyster beds from the adjacent waters as far south as La Poza have been contaminated from the seepage from the “carcamo”. Experts may be able to judge how long the beach will remain contaminated, but common sense indicates that people and animals should stay away from this area. And, the incidence of mosquitoes and flies may increase as a result of this event.

How did this come about? The “carcamo” was built some forty years ago when the town was a fraction of its present size and the area surrounding the pond was dedicated to agriculture. Approximately four years ago residential construction commenced in the immediate area and simultaneously members of the community became concerned about the rising water level in the pond. As a result this group of concerned citizens commenced a program of keeping track of the rising water level and informed the officials of the risk. Despite the growing risk, the town increased the number of homes connected to the sewer. Before the event of this week, the pond has overflowed three times, and each time was more serious than the previous one. To accommodate the increasing amount of sewage the town responded to each overflow by digging sand from the frontal dunes, thereby creating large holes, and building narrow, higher dikes with the material. The building of the narrow dikes undermined the strength and mass of the dunes which had been holding the “carcamo” in place. What has happened here demonstrates the same type of risk which has been created by building houses on the dunes. (For eight years concerned citizens fought off developers’ efforts to build on the dunes, but recently officials in La Paz have approved dunes construction and several houses have been built and more are to follow.)

What should be learned from this event? Officials in La Paz have been aware of the problem for at least three years and have been saying that a water treatment plant was soon to be built, but nothing happened. The size of the town far exceeds the infrastructure, yet government shows no recognition of this fact and allows development to continue unrestricted. Everyday hundreds of tourists come to the town thereby exacerbating the problem. Maybe this event will cause the officials to wake up and act responsibly! We shall see.

Here are Alvaro’s photos from May 8:

Todos Santos Carcamo

Todos Santos

And here are my photos from the following morning:

Todos Santos

Todos Santos

Todos Santos
These are the filtering plants that grew in the cesspool.

Todos Santos
Here you can see where the breach has been filled in with bulldozed sand.

Todos Santos
Normally this beach is just sand.

Todos Santos

Kill All The Lawyers

Wasn’t that Shakespeare? “First thing we do is kill all the lawyers.” Let me offer that it might not apply to Mexico.

On Saturday, the man who waters my neighbor’s plants, his “gardener”, called me over to the fence line. We had been acknowledging each other for a few weeks with “Buenos Dias” but had never spoken. He said his name was Ulysses. I noted that it was a Greek name and he said his father liked to read the classics and was inspired to name his son after the hero of Greek mythology.

Ulysses then proceeded to tell me how much he admired the fact that I lived in a small home. I remarked that it wasn’t a home but rather was a trailer. He said he meant that I hadn’t built some large ostentatious home but was living simply. I said I was planning to build a home but was forever waiting for designs, plans, permits, etc. I told him I had been living here for 11 years and he replied he had been in Todos Santos for 3 years. I asked if he was a gardener. He said no, he was a lawyer and a carpenter but when there wasn’t enough of that kind of work, he did garden work. We shared our common love for growing plants and then he practiced a bit of English on me, after which he went on with his garden work, whistling at the birds in a very good imitation of the sounds they make.

So the problem with killing all the lawyers here is it might create a shortage of carpenters and gardeners and maybe other unknown unskilled labor. Only in Mexico!

The Warming Continues

The last couple of days it has continued to get warmer. The mornings sometimes start cool – it mostly depends on whether there is fog or not. No fog and it gets warm fast. What’s different is that the nights are getting warmer now, lows around 60-65 F. The ocean water is still cool to cold so it won’t get really hot at night until that changes. All that said, the weather is extremely pleasant right now.

Town however is suffering from the economic worries in the US. We do have many daytime visitors, but it has become painfully obvious that people simple are not planning vacations to Todos Santos. Hotels and vacation rentals have a lot of vacancies and are running way behind past year’s occupancy rates. Tourists are not staying overnight in Todos Santos. This could easily change once school lets out in the US and families begin traveling. Vamos a ver!

May El Calendario de Todos Santos Online Today

I just now finished uploading the May 2008 issue of El Calendario de Todos Santos to the web page. You can view it here:

El Calendario de Todos Santos