Venezuelans water supply polluted with animal sacrifices

Oh, this is lovely. (not)

Dead Dog in Reservoir Helps Drive Venezuelans to Bottled Water – Bloomberg.

The carcass of a dead dog floats on the lake that supplies tap water to 750,000 Venezuelans. Witch doctor Francisco Sanchez has just dumped the previous night’s sacrifice from a cliff, contaminating the resource that has become more scarce than gasoline in Caracas.

The water from Lake Mariposa, polluted by sacrifices and garbage from a local cult, is pumped to a 60-year-old treatment plant that lacks the technology to make it safe for drinking, said Fernando Morales, an environmental chemistry professor at Simon Bolivar University in Caracas who has visited the site.

Eight kilometers (five miles) away from the lake, in Caracas, sales of bottled water are booming, with families paying the equivalent of $4.80 for a five-gallon jug, twice the price of gasoline.

In the meantime, witch doctor Sanchez, is left free to practice his water-polluting rituals.

“No one is bothering me here at all,” Sanchez, 42, said as he prepared a chicken for sacrifice later in the day. “I moved here two years ago because I wanted to get deeper into witchcraft. People come to worship every evening from the city.”

Obvious question: Why is he not prohibited from polluting like this? He appears very selfish and unfazed by his actions. This is causing a hardship for residents. The treatment plant can not sufficiently handle the polluted water which may contain viruses. This lake was found to contain dozens of animal carcasses when it was last examined.

Mariposa used to be a tourist destination. Today it is a haven for followers of Santeria who sacrifice animals.

In the industrialized Western world we’re lucky to have regulations that prohibit such acts and that ensure the tap water is clean enough to drink. In many cases, it’s cleaner and safer than bottled water. For such a rich country, they can’t afford the most basic human need – potable water.

  4 comments for “Venezuelans water supply polluted with animal sacrifices

  1. Chris
    September 5, 2013 at 1:02 PM

    Um, when has it ever been safe to drink the tap water in Caracas? When we lived there in the early 1970s we had bottled water delivered. One kid in my sixth grade class missed several weeks of school due to amoebic dysentery.

    Now, what is a crime is the continued lack of funding for infrastructure, and very high prices for bottled water. The linked to article explains it is lots more than just dead animals. Much of it can be explained with this paragraph:

    Diverting water from Cuira won’t guarantee the water quality, as much of the contamination occurs after the processing plant, while water sits in old tanks and then travels through rotting secondary pipelines to people’s homes, Bausson said.

    Forty years ago, many of the middle class homes had open cisterns on the roof to hold water. Lots of stuff grew in those tanks.

  2. spookyparadigm
    September 5, 2013 at 1:06 PM

    I am highly skeptical of this. I mean, I’m sure some guy is throwing trash and carcasses in the lake. But welcome to any number of lakes, gullies, and other locales near populated areas in Latin America and elsewhere. And water and power outages. These can be routine/commonplace in large cities in Latin America, and in some barrios, the status quo. I remember in San Salvador (where water was usually scarce in our neighborhood in the early 2000s on Sundays, and sometimes for up to a week; power outages there were shorter, though in more rural towns could be for a day or so) that barrio Mejicanos (which has serious gang issues) generally wasn’t getting tap water for a month or more at a time. After several days without water in our more affluent colonia, water trucks would eventually get hired to fill the tanks on the roof (houses typically have tanks precisely because of water outages and slow-downs). And that’s not even getting to the issue of drinking the stuff (bottled water is routinely sold there and water delivery businesses are common).

    This article by the very pro-business Bloomberg company is taking issues that are legit, but stem from larger systemic poverty in many places, and trying to pin it specifically on the socialist Chavez movement. And adding an exoticizing bit about “witch doctors” at the top for an extra colonialist push (a push not found in most of the rest of the article; funny how the witch doctor gets the headline and the picture, and not the Venezuelan scientists and engineers further down). It’s not Satanic Panic stuff, but it feels related.

  3. John Nowak
    September 5, 2013 at 3:13 PM

    I find it a little hard to believe that the occasional animal sacrifice would have a significant effect on the water quality of a system that serves three quarter of a million people, however badly. But, I am not a water engineer.

  4. Chris
    September 5, 2013 at 3:45 PM


    This article by the very pro-business Bloomberg company is taking issues that are legit, but stem from larger systemic poverty in many places, and trying to pin it specifically on the socialist Chavez movement.

    Exactly. Those issues were there several governments ago. Forty years ago the system was actively not socialist, but definitely slow to repair the damage from a massive earthquake that happened a year before we got there. Oh, fuzzy memories, we were there between 1968 to 1970. I mostly remember as a kid there was guerrilla warfare in the area, an election and then relative peace for a while. Um, reading on some of that country’s political history, and it is quite colorful.

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