Turrialba volcano is taking a toll on its neighbors

The gas and acid rain have destroyed much of the vegetation and damaged the soil, the report said.

Acid rain and acidic gas have been ravaging the southwest side of the Turrialba volcano. Not only the vegetation has suffered. Homes and outbuildings constructed of metals like zinc are being consumed continually by the years of exposure.

The Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica released a report Monday outlining the devastation and impact on agriculture. The area southwest of the volcano seems to have suffered the most because of the prevailing winds.

The field study was done by Eliécer Duarte González and Erick Fernández Soto. Duarte has a file of photos taken in previous years that shows the progression of the damage when compared with current photos. The report said that the effect on animals needs to be investigated.

Even vegetation believed to be resistant to the acid rain and gas has suffered during three years of exposure. Some native species are completely defoliated, the report said.

A path that connects the small community of La Central with La Picada on the flank of the volcano shows tracts of land that have been yellowed by the gas, according to the report. Sometimes, the report
said, heavy rains can revitalize the vegetation, but the cumulative effect appears to have sterilized the soil.

Some farm fields where potatoes have been raised are abandoned, the report said.

The emissions of gas have been going on for five years, but the report noted that there has not been a study of the economic effects yet.

The report noted that in what it terms a heroic act a teacher and children were receiving classes amid the gas in a structure that was corroded and deteriorating due to the environment.

Although the observatory has tried to generate interest in the situation, said the report, there has been little response. But it said there still is time to take preventative measures. It called for action by the Ministerio de Salud and the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería as well as the nation’s milk distributors to study the situation from social and economic perspectives to keep the area from remaining semi-abandoned due to the severe impact of what it called an uncomfortable neighbor, the volcano.

The nearby Irazú volcano also is putting out gas, and adjacent farmland also shows effects of the acid.

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