Divers found human waste in Tulum’s sinkholes and cave pools as a construction boom in the region destroys a natural water filtration system

Swimming in a cenote
  • Cenotes in Tulum have grown polluted due to construction spurred by an influx of visitors.
  • Construction of hotels and restaurants razes mangroves, which facilitate natural filtration.
  • Without mangroves, pollutants like sewage, chemicals, and feces end up in Tulum’s waterways.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Construction in the popular tourist destination of Tulum, Mexico, is booming to keep up with an influx of digital nomads and other visitors.

With new hotels and restaurants come a greater draw for tourists. But the construction has been spelling disaster for the environment. Cenotes, which are sinkholes or caves that have filled with water and are often used as swimming holes, have grown polluted because of such development. Of the roughly 6,000 cenotes found across the Yucatán Peninsula, roughly 80% are contaminated, according to Mexico’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.

Part of the problem stems from the destruction of mangroves that takes place during much of this construction. These trees and shrubs act as a natural filtration system to keep pollutants out of the water. Without them, contaminants like sewage, chemicals, and more find their way into Tulum’s waterways.

From there, the contamination can seep into the underground water system and then into the sea. Divers have even documented contamination of the cenotes with feces. The construction also harms wildlife, such as sea turtles, by destroying their natural habitats.

Read more about how the rise in tourism is impacting destinations like Tulum in Insider’s story here.

Groundwater pollutants in the aquifers under Mexico’s Riviera Maya district include chemicals from painkillers, illicit drugs like cocaine, remnants of personal care products like deodorants and toothpaste, and chemical run-off, according to a United Nations University study.

The pollution of cenotes can also “adversely affect the nearby ecosystem, like lagoons, estuaries and coral reefs, causing a serious deterioration of this ecosystem and in public health,” according to a study published last year that examined coliform bacteria in cenotes in Cancún.

Adding to the problem is the fact that cenotes are often used as dumping grounds for waste. Roughly 25% of household wastewater on the peninsula ends up in the region’s aquifers untreated. Researchers say improvements to regional wastewater treatment and sewage management systems are necessary to help curb this practice. Addressing agricultural runoff is another important step.

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Turkey’s president vows to ‘save’ the country from the largest outbreak of ‘sea snot’ on record

 Turkey's Marmara Sea, sea snot
An aerial view showing ‘sea snot’ on Turkey’s Marmara Sea on June 4, 2021.

  • Turkey’s Sea of Marmara has seen the largest outbreak of “sea snot” on record.
  • The President has promised to “save our seas” from the substance caused by pollution.
  • It is causing problems for marine life and the fishing industry.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Turkey’s President Erdogan has promised to save the country’s seas from “sea snot,” a slimy layer of gray or green sludge that could endanger marine life and the fishing industry.

The substance, which is known as marine mucilage or “sea snot,” forms when algae are overloaded with nutrients due to climate change and water pollution.

It was first discovered in 2007, and later in the Aegean Sea near Greece. The latest outbreak, found in the Sea of Marmara near Istanbul, is thought to be the largest in history, BBC News and Sky News report.

“We will save our seas from this mucilage calamity, leading with the Marmara Sea. We must take this step without delay,” President Erdogan said in a statement, according to Sky News.

turkey sea snot 2
The sea Harbour.

Erdogan blamed untreated sewage being dumped in the sea and rising temperatures. He added that “the trouble will be enormous” if the substance expands to the Black Sea, BBC News reports.

The Turkish government has dispatched a team to inspect the potential sources of pollution in the sea.

The Sea of Marmara is an inland sea separating the Asiatic and European parts of Turkey, spanning 175 miles long from northeast to southwest and 50 miles wide at its greatest width. It is connected to the Black Sea through the Bosphorus – a waterway also known as the Strait of Istanbul – on the northeast.

BBC News reports that fishermen traveling through the sea are prevented from working as the “sea snot” is clogging up their motors and nets.

The publication added that divers have reported a large number of fish and other species dying due to suffocation.

“Due to the overgrowth of the mucilage, several species are under threat [including] oysters, mussels, sea stars,” Professor Bayram Ozturk of the Turkish Marine Research told the BBC. “It’s a real catastrophe.”

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Why you should never release your pet goldfish into the wild

Goldfish may look small and cute in your home, but in the wild it’s a different story. Releasing them into your local stream or lake is a bad idea. Following is a transcript of the video.

Right now, Washington state is fighting off an invasion! The culprit? Goldfish. Yup, you heard right.

Thousands of goldfish have infested the West Medical Lake and are crowding out the native fish population. How did this happen? The Department of Fish and Wildlife thinks that a few irresponsible pet owners are to blame. And while the goldfish may have cost the owners a few dollars, this mess is going to cost the state an estimated $150,000 to try to remove these feral fish.

But this isn’t the only place this is happening. Goldfish are invading lakes and streams worldwide, and it’s all our fault.

If you think you’re doing the goldfish a favor by releasing it, you’re not! Instead, you’re setting the stage for an ecological disaster, which could threaten hundreds of other species. Turns out, goldfish are one of the world’s worst invasive species.

Goldfish were first selectively bred in China 2,000 years ago for food. By the 14th century, goldfish had been promoted from our meals to our entertainment. It wasn’t long before pet owners helped them spread across the world, eventually reaching North America by the 19th century.

They may look small and cute in your home, but in the wild it’s a different story. Given enough time and resources, these little orange monsters will grow into giants, reaching as much as 4 pounds, or 2 kilograms, about the size of an American football!

These big fish are also big eaters, feeding on plants, insects, crustaceans, and other fish. But they’re not just consuming what other fish rely on to survive – their voracious feeding time actually kicks up mud and sediment, which can lead to harmful algae blooms that choke the ecosystem.

If that’s not enough, they also introduce foreign parasites and diseases that wreak havoc on the delicately balanced ecosystems wherever they go. And they aren’t content to stay in one place. Goldfish are a rapidly reproducing fish and will migrate across multiple bodies of water. Case in point: When a few were dumped in a local Australian river in the early 2000s they eventually migrated to the Vasse River, where they’re still a major problem today.

There are similar accounts of goldfish invasions in Epping Forest, London; Alberta, Canada; and Lake Tahoe, Nevada. In fact, invasive fish species accounted for over half of the total fish population in Lake Tahoe Basin. Besides causing fiscal and environmental disasters there are other reasons you should keep that goldfish in its tank.

For starters, goldfish are smarter than you might think. They have a memory span of at least three months, which means you can teach them tricks like this. They also can tell the difference between Stravinsky and Bach.

Can you do that?

So, consider the wildlife, and think twice before tossing that goldfish away.

Additional video courtesy Spartan’s tricks.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in April 2018.

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