Citizens of Cd. Juárez protested against the reopening of Norfluor, a hydrofluoric acid plant that the municipal government ordered closed during May because of environmental and safety concerns. The protesters included local and international environmental groups, students, women, children and supporters of various political parties
Ignacio Salvatori Ruiz, a representative of the company, considered the closing an “involuntary misunderstanding” and assured that Norfluor complied with all safety measures. “This is a very serious company, the problem is that we did not have enough financial resources to invest,” said Salvatori to El Diario.
This is the second time, in less than a year that Norfluor has been sanctioned. Twice in 1999–on October 18 and November 1–an electrical/chemical accident released a toxic cloud of gas into nearby neighborhoods. The company was fined $36,000, but this amount was never paid. Thus, on May 16, 2000, the mayor of Cd. Juárez, Gustavo Elizondo, ordered the plant closed.
Elizondo told El Paso Times that the closure took place after environmental officials determined that employees and residents were at risk. “The plant has failed to put into effect several measures the city recommended to protect the employees and the public from harmful leaks,” said Elizondo.
For days, a crowd of protesters gathered around Norflour’s installation. However, the plant re-opened its doors on June 14, after the 6th District Judicial Court in Juárez decided to suspend the municipal government’s order.
On several occasions, Juárenses have demanded the relocation of Norfluor out of the urban area. Approximately 10 families living nearby have complained of infections and respiratory problems because of Norfluor’s fumes.
The acid plant is located on the Pan American Highway and produces 60 tons of ammoniac and other toxic acids daily. According to a research done by the University of California at San Diego, these chemicals can cause injuries and burns to the eyes and the skin. It can also affect the lungs.
The director of the Municipal Department of Ecology and Civil Protection, Hector Apocada, promised to keep looking very closely Norfluor’s safety procedures.