Clouds in the streets, as if it were magical realism. However, there is nothing magical about what the inhabitants of the Colombian town of Los Puentes are experiencing these days.
This foam is actually a massive accumulation of pollutants from the Balsillas River, where the wastewater from Bogotá arrives, located about 20 kilometers away.
Although the authorities say that it is harmless, scientific studies affirm that prolonged exposure can cause skin irritation and respiratory problems, especially in children. Residents of Los Puentes say they experience these symptoms.
“The smell that this emanates is terrible, the foam causes it to damage the facades of the houses, the bad smell is permanent, we have suffered from health and breathing problems,” says Óscar Arandia, a resident.
The fetid foam continues to grow, affecting twenty houses and the path to the community school.
“We have had this problem for many years, what happens is that when it’s all winter, it grows on us, but nobody listens to us,” says Flor Alba Rodíguez.
The municipal risk office explains that the foam is formed because the river carries high loads of organic waste and surfactants, such as detergents and other household cleaning products. They are waste that is irresponsibly dumped in the sewers of Bogotá and that ends up here in Los Puentes.
“This is the product of contamination, this is the product of the poor disposal of waste, which we have been talking about, in this case what the whole earth collects, such as materials, dead animals, we also throw away garbage, grease, detergents, which it is the one that generates all this contamination reflected in the foam”, explains Sergio Valero, director of the office.
This phenomenon has been occurring for several years, but the unusually strong rainy season collapsed the river with the water loaded with this waste. The authorities have mobilized to eradicate the white pestilence with a treatment plant.