Sunday, April 11, 2010

CA&ES researchers participate in Guatemalan expedition

This photo shows (L to R) Margaret Dix, Bob Richards, and Mark Grismer discussing sampling techniques. (Christine Schmidt/UC Davis)

CA&ES researchers participate in Guatemalan expedition — College ...
Apr 11, 2010 ... Many important questions about the ecology of Lago de Atitlan remain that may .... a face to the names of folks I've chatted with over email and the telephone. ... Atitlan discussion group: This photo shows (L to R) Margaret Dix, ... Contact: for website related issues ...

Read entire article at:

University of California, Davis
April 11, 2010. To follow the daily activities of this research team, please visit:

Google search for: Dr Margaret Dix Valley University Guatemala

Nov 24, 2009 ... Languages. Contact Us ... elements must be prevented from entering the lake," biologist Margaret Dix explained. ... Juan Skinner, an environmentalist with the Lake Atitlán Environmental Protection ... Lake Atitlán, ringed by the San Pedro, Atitlán and Tolimán volcanoes, ... Free Email Newsletters ...

Pollution Threatens Guatemala's Lake Atitlán
Dec 17, 2009 ... Today Lake Atitlan—located within an hour's drive of Antigua—is drowning in a ... according to Margaret Dix, a scientist at the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala). ... Read articles at or contact ...

ENVIRONMENT-GUATEMALA: SOS from Lake Atitlán : Global Geopolitics ...
Nov 25, 2009 ... Juan Skinner, an environmentalist with the Lake Atitlán Environmental Protection Society (PRO-LAGO), told IPS that the problem is even more ...

How Guatemala's Most Beautiful Lake Turned Ugly - TIME
Nov 29, 2009 ... People stand in Atitlan Lake, Guatemala. De Agostini / Getty ... apparently, this was not a priority," says Margaret Dix, a Universidad Del ...,8599,1942501,00.html

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Lago de Atitlan Expedition 2010

Excerpt from:

UC Davis, College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The race to the finish has begun. Everyone is really tired, having gotten little sleep and worked very hard during the waking hours, but there is still a lot of motivation and curiosity. Ideas for new research and teaching collaborations continue to emerge.

The large boat went out sampling until the winds came up. Like yesterday, the winds came very early today.

The near-shore team spent a second morning touring the edges of the lake.

The focus of the day, however, was in the laboratories. The processing of the numerous samples gathered has reached a fever pitch. We are near the end of our adventure here, so water samples need to be filtered, soil and invertebrate samples need to be stored in a way that’s conducive to transport, etc.

Photos: students working hard to process samples in the chemistry lab ...


We are so pleased to have Margaret Dix (Universidad del Valle) with us during this whole expedition. She and her husband, Michael Dix (who spent as much time with us as he could), arrived in Guatemala more than 35 years ago to fulfill a two year assignment. They have been here ever since! They are widely respected as environmental scientists (“famous” is a term used by locals) and are responsible for educating many of Guatemala’s natural resource decision makers through their leadership in the biology department at the Universidad del Valle del Guatemala ...


About Lago de Atitlan Expedition
This 2-week expedition, funded by the US National Science Foundation, brings together experts to understand the ecological processes in Lago de Atitlan and suggest future directions that will further our understanding of the eutrophication in the lake. Our goals are to collaborate with Guatemalan scientists, govt officials, & community groups, and train Guatemalan students to develop local capacity to conserve one of the most beautiful highland tropical lakes in the world.


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Save Lake Atitlan


Guatemala: A national natural treasure is almost lost because of government indifference

By Mayra Beltrán de Daetz

Guatemala -- Lake Atitlán, located in the Department of Sololá, has one of the most beautiful landscapes found anywhere in Guatemala. Its beauty has been compared with Switzerland's lakes.

Along the margins of the lake, there are three imposing volcanos: Atitlán, Tolimán and San Pedro. The lake is located at 1,560 meters at sea level and is 18 km long. Its depth varies and at many points it is not known, but drilling has reached depths of more than 350 meters.

In reviewing the history of the scientific origin of the most beautiful "Lake of the World," as Atitlán is called, there are two versions. One version says that the lake is an old dead crater. The other is that the sprouting volcanoes interrupted the course of three rivers coming from the north. When the rivers reunited, their waters created the lake. The lake does not have visible water drainage.

The lake is surrounded by 12 colorful little towns that are called the twelve apostles: Santa Catarina Palopó, San Antonio Palopó, San Lucas Tolimán, Santiago Atitlán, San Pedro the Lagoon, San Juan the Lagoon, San Pablo the Lagoon, San Marcos the Lagoon, Santa Cruz the Lagoon, Panajachel and others. ...(more)

Comment Posted on 22 de Enero 2010 08:13

I am asking your prayers, support and assistance to bring the environmental disaster occurring at Lake Atitlan into clear focus here in States and abroad..

We have formed a an organization called Save Lake Atitlan Mission for this purpose. A new web site and radio is forthcoming and will be out in two weeks.

I personally will be in Atitlan in June to help those already trying to tackle this problem which threatens the very existence of the lake and the people near it. There is much work to do both long term and short term. Like I said in a recent article I wrote, If there is no lake, there is no nothing there. In your case a polluted lake means sick children who cannot learn.

Please help me and I will help you any way I can. Look forward to talking and working together now and when I arrive in Atitlan.


Eco-Tek Could Provide Solution for Dying Lake Atitlan

Garbage piles up, raw sewage dumped in lake, no water treatment plants

By Greg Szymanski, JD
March 8, 2010

There is no excuse for garbage pile up and unsanitary water conditions at Lake Atitlan in the Guatemalen Highlands.

Whether the lake is in pristine shape or whether it’s showing signs of being nothing more than a big toilet and garbage dump as it is now, water treatment plants should have been built all around the lake long ago.

Of course, the immediate needs of the 60,000 Mayans living on the shoreline must be met first and there are number of missionary and relief groups in the process of doing just that

But if there is no lake, there is no shoreline. If there is no lake, there are no Mayans. If there is no lake, there are no fish and fishing profits. If there is no lake, there is no tourism and $30 million annually coming in from the tourist trade.

If there is no lake, there are, of course, no Evangelicals or Catholics around to preach the gospel with loud speakers and buckets of what may be toxic holy water.

If there is no lake, there are no New Age people sitting on the rocks preaching love and waiting for the age of enlightenment to arrive. If there is no lake, there are no massage parlors to ease the aching bones of those who write about the beauty of the ancient Mayan people. If there is no lake, there are no churches to visit in order to pray about the dying lake and the lack of fresh potable water.

If there is no lake, there is no nothing!

Simply put, if the long term projects for implementing water treatment plants and garbage disposal systems aren’t started immediately, everyone including the rich and poor ought to just put all their dreams and hopes in a big sad sack, put all their earthly belongings in a big suit case and head for the hills.


Because the cyanobacteria outbreak that hit the lake in October 2009 in the form of a large green algae blob covering 85 per cent of the lake is a serious matter that threatens the lives of everyone there.

This type of outbreak, which isn’t going away anytime soon, is not only going on at Lake Atitlan but there are fresh water lakes all over the world being attacked by pollution, including lakes in America.

To show how dangerous cyanobacteria can be here is an excerpt of a report not known by the people at Atitlan from the state of New Hampshire, experiencing the same toxic bacteria outbreaks in some of its lakes.

What You Should Know
Recent attention has been directed toward cyanobacteria Cyanobacteria in New Hampshire lakes and ponds. The presence of cyanobacteria in recreational waters is a great concern of the DES Beach Program. Blooms of these primitive cyanobacteria have caused adverse health affects, even death, in livestock, domestic animals and humans.

Beach Advisory of Cyanobacteria Recreational Exposure
Cyanobacteria blooms are aesthetically displeasing in sight, odor and taste, as well as potentially toxic to domestic animals, livestock, waterfowl and humans. Cyanobacteria are a potential public health danger because they may produce toxins, collectively referred to as “Cyanotoxins,” that can be released into the water when cells die or are consumed by organisms in the food chain.

However, the amount of toxin produced varies over time and from lake to lake. A cyanobacteria bloom may produce very little or no toxin in one lake and a later bloom in the same lake could produce a large toxin concentration. Unfortunately, no known method exists for predicting the toxin content of a cyanobacteria bloom. These cyanotoxins target the liver, kidney, the central nervous system, and skin irritants. All cyanotoxins can cause both acute and chronic illnesses. Acute effects, such as skin and mucous membrane irritations, can occur after short term exposure with water containing these toxins. Chronic effects, such as liver, kidney, and central nervous system damage, can occur over a long period of time from water ingestion containing toxins.

Drinking Water Exposure
The Groundwater and Drinking Water Source Protection Program provides regulatory and non-regulatory tools to protect groundwater and sources of public drinking water. The program works closely with water systems, municipalities, residents and organizations to ensure adequate quantity and quality of New Hampshire’s drinking water and is aware of cyanotoxins. However, at this time it is not known whether cyanobacteria are a significant problem for New Hampshire water systems, other than as a source of taste and odor problems. More information is available in the fact sheet Cyanobacteria and Drinking Water: Guidance for Public Water Systems.

You can help keep the cyanobacteria from forming in the first place. Research indicates that their numbers increase as the nutrients in the water increase. To reduce the chances of a bloom occurring, reduce the amount of nutrients, such as phosphates, that enter the water. Homeowners can help by testing their soils before applying fertilizers and, if they must apply a fertilizer, making sure that they apply only what they need. The NH Shore land Protection Act prohibits the use of fertilizer closer than 25 feet from shore. Also, between 25 and 250 feet from shore, only low phosphate, slow release nitrogen fertilizer may be used. Keeping your septic system maintained will also help keep nutrients from leaching through the soil into nearby streams or lakes.

With those serious words in mind, the first step is to build a number of waste water treatment plants.

Of course, the Guatemalen government and its U.S. partners are going to cry poverty while issuing reports that15 treatment plants at a cost of $350 million are needed to solve the problem.

Realizing government most often talks first and thinks later, the $350 million figure seems a bit high. It also gives off the impression that the task is a financial impossibility considering the state of the Guatemalen economy, not to mention the decline of the once powerful dollar.

Looking at the other side of the coin, supposedly Spain and the U.S. have already allocated $39 million for the Atitlan water problems.

But, if so, where is the money?

Where is the progress since we know nothing has even started happening seven months after the algae bloom made Atitlan stink like a big bathroom. It’s about time people in Atitlan start telling the government what to do and not the other way around.

What if we told the officials 15 water treatment plants could be built at a fraction of the $39 million? What if they could be built for say $10 million, $5 million, $3 million or even less?

What if they could be built without being chemically based facilities harmful to the environment?

What if we told them the yearly maintenance costs could be less than $5,000 a year while providing a host of jobs for the local people?

Would they listen? If you have doubts, send them a copy of this story. Translate it into Spanish. Make sure the big shots listen to this.

There is a waste water management company in British Columbia called Eco-Tek that just built a non-chemically waste water treatment plant in Havana for $150,000 in 2006.

The company’s chief operating officer has been in contact with the Arctic Beacon and after looking at the Atitlan situation for the last week, he is very excited about getting involved. He added no one from Gautemala has bothered to contact his company even though the situation at Lake Atitlan is life threatening not only for the lake but its people and wildlife.

One would think with a situation so grave all possibilities would have been explored.

Hopefully better late than never.

“In short, yes. This is something we can help with,” said Patrick Meyer, chief operations officer of Eco-TeK Ecological Technologies, Inc. “Panajachel is reputed to be about 14,000 people. That’s far too many people to be going without water treatment. So, Panajachel did have a collection system and an existing site for sewage treatment. That makes things much easier and less expensive.

“The more I think about this opportunity the more excited I get. We have a low-cost opportunity to make a major change, a significant improvement on what is currently happening.”

Meyer said he was looking forward to opening up a line of communication with those in Lake Atitlan working on the problem. He added he was going to immediately contact his Cuban connections to see if this might help open up discussions with Guatemala..

Meyer went on to say:

“Also, take into consideration our facilities are not just about treating sewage; they’re about water re-use. We clean water to high enough standards that the water may be re-used for agricultural purposes. In Havana we created food producing gardens and an orchard as part of the project. Using this water for irrigation will reduce the toxic run-off from farms the area is presently experiencing.

“Costs for our system are minimal in warm climates. Our system is Havana would be most similar. It treats 300m3/day and cost $150,000. Further details of that project can be viewed at

“As an aside. A key consideration with any mechanical system is to keep maintenance costs in mind. Traditional sewage treatment systems can be extremely expensive when it comes to replacement parts. For our Havana project we really broke down the process and simplified it to eliminate most of the high-cost components. We estimated that operations/maintenance would cost $5,000 per year but I’d be surprised if it amounted to more than $2,000. Since then we’ve done further work on simplifying our system to the point that its hardly recognizable as a sewage treatment facility. Operation costs of the treatment facility should be zero.

“Vital information at the outset is two-fold. Understanding the waste we’re treating, and knowing that there is a source of revenue that can pay for the expenses. I would hope they would contact us or we can make initial inquiries as well now that we know they need help.”

Here is more information about Eco-Tek:

ECO-TEK is an environmental leader in handling waste water through purely biological means.

While most wastewater treatment facilities treat with chemicals and dispose of treated waste into our natural environment ECO-TEK builds fully biological systems. We use no chemicals and produce useful products at the end of our process.

We can build ZERO-impact waste water treatment facilities.

Cleans Water

The system produces safe, clean water and bio-solids for reuse in a number of applications such as irrigation and industrial process water.


The systems are contained within a greenhouse or solarium filled with lush vegetation. Extensive aeration produces an odorless environment allowing the systems to be located in the center of communities.

Simply Built

The systems are built using reliable equipment and highly durable, lightweight components that are easy to assemble with unskilled labour.

Mimics Nature

The processes are chemical free and are resilient due to a diverse aquatic ecosystem.

Grows Plants

The system is designed to turn sewage into clean water, soil and plants. These are in the form of aquatic pond plants, flowers, tree seedlings, and plant starts.

Reusing Waste water as a Resource

ECO-TEK was established 1992 by Kimron Rink to promote social, ecological and economic sustainability in communities; creating sustainable ”planetary villages” using ecological technologies.

ECO-TEK presently focuses on Solar Aquatics System™ and other ecologically engineered technologies to reclaim water and nutrients from sewage and use these constituents to grow bio-regionally appropriate, regenerative plant material.

ECO-TEK incorporates cutting edge sustainable building principles into every project. Sustainable design and construction results in solar heated, low energy, heat recovering solariums for the Solar Aquatics System

ECO-TEK is the leader in ecological water reclamation in Canada. Although our focus has been on western Canada we have experience abroad as well.

In 2006 Eco-Tek completed a Havana Urban sewage collection systems flow by gravity to creeks and streams of the Havana Metropolitan Park. This pilot aqua-culture waste treatment facility was designed and built to reclaim this wastewater for reuse as irrigation water for organic urban agriculture and to grow flowers for export to Canada.

BREAKING NEWS: Right after the publication of this article, it was announced the Government inaugurated a waste water treatment plant to help clean up Lake Atitlán to be built in Santa Caterina Palopo. It might be added many more plants are needed and Eco-Tek may provide a financially feasible alternative that is environmentally more friendly.

Please keep an eye on progress, money spent and projected maintenance costs.

Here is the Headline:
Published: Monday, March 8, 2010 12:07 (GMT-0400)
By Business News Americas staff reporters

Guatemala’s government has inaugurated a waste water treatment plant in southwestern Sololá province’s Santa Catarina Palopó municipality, the presidential website reported.

Santa Catarina Palopó is located on lake Atitlán, and the 312,000-quetzal (US$38,898) plant is part of the government’s efforts to clean up the highly contaminated water.

The initiative was carried out with funding from the National Peace Fund (Fonapaz) in coordination with local government.

The environment ministry Marn has drawn up a 310mn-quetzal (US$37.3mn) plan to clean up Atitlán lake, which currently has high levels of cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae. The algae’s proliferation is caused by the presence of domestic waste and untreated waste water in the lake.

The overall plan involves building 17 waste water treatment plants, septic tanks, sanitary sewerage systems, closing down unauthorized garbage dumps, the gradual prohibition of inorganic fertilizers and chemical soaps, technical and economic support for municipalities in the province, and sanctions for domestic and industrial users caught polluting the lake.
Editor’s Note: See more of Greg’s stories below on Atitlan. If you want to help raise money, awareness and meet the immediate needs of the Mayans, contact gregbeacon at Look for a new world wide web site coming out in two weeks, galvanizing interests worldwide to see the Mayans and Lake Atitlan are treated fairly. Also, a new weekly radio show will be broadcast highlighting Atitlan and the plight of all indigenous groups in North, South and Central America.

Posted by greg anthony szymanski | 10 de Marzo 2010 a las 05:04 PM

Posted on 10 de Marzo 2010 17:04
greg anthony szymanski:

Hello and Good Day,

Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
View of Lake Atitlan and volcano from my apartment balcony in Panajachel. Taken by Catherine Todd June 2008.