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Water Pollution in Lake Maracaibo and Gulf of Venezuela, Venezuela and Colombia – June 6th, 2013

9.5N 71.3W

June 6th, 2013 Category: Image of the day, Sediments MODISAqua

Venezuela and Colombia – June 5th, 2013

Though undoubtedly shocking and disconcerting, the recent Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is hardly the first incident of its kind in the region. Starting in the 1920s, American and British subsidiaries of Standard Oil of New Jersey, Gulf and Royal Dutch Shell turned environmentally pristine Lake Maracaibo (below), which empties out into the Gulf of Venezuela (above) and the Caribbean, into toxic sludge.

Travel to Lake Maracaibo today and you can still see the relics of the pioneering petroleum past: hundreds of offshore oil derricks dot the horizon as far as the eye can see. During the 1920s oil was a messy business and blow-outs, fires and fantastic gushers were a common occurrence. Just as in Louisiana today, the oil industry in Lake Maracaibo put delicate lakeshore mangroves in danger as well as tropical wildlife.

The water used by local residents for domestic uses came from the lake itself, and reportedly there was little risk of getting sick from the water as it was clean, such that one could even see the head of a coin or a needle in the water. With the arrival of the oil companies however, the water became dirty (click here for more information).

Issues for Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela

9.5N 71.3W

January 26th, 2013 Category: Lakes

Venezuela – January 17th, 2013

Visible at the bottom left of this image is Lake Maracaibo, in Venezuela, connected to the Gulf of Venezuela via the 55 km long Tablazo Strait. Some green swirls of color on the lake are due to the growth of duckweed, a problem plaguing the lake since the early 2000s. At times, over 18% of the lake has been covered by duckweed, and although efforts to remove the plant have been underway, the plant – which can double its size every 48 hours – occupies over 130 million cubic metres of the lake.

The only way to remove the weed is to pull it out of the lake physically – no chemical or biological method has been found to treat the weed. The government has been spending $2 million monthly to clean the lake, and the state-run oil company Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. has created a $750 million cleanup fund. Current efforts are barely keeping up with the growth of the plant. The removal process has proven to be particularly difficult in the center of the lake where a specially equipped ship may be needed to pull the weed off the lake.

Sediments from Paraguaná Peninsula to Maracaibo Lake Entrance, Venezuela and Colombia

11.5N 71W

January 23rd, 2013 Category: Lakes, Sediments

Venezuela and Colombia – January 6th, 2013

Sediments can be observed in the Gulf of Venezuela, a gulf of the Caribbean Sea bounded by Venezuela and Colombia. A 54 km (34 mi) strait connects it with Maracaibo Lake to the south. Here, brown sediments can be observed south of the Paraguaná Peninsula, in Venezuela (right), and streaming from the Guajira Peninsula, shared by Venezuela and Colombia, to the entrance to Maracaibo Lake.

Maracaibo on Tablazo Strait Near Gulf of Venezuela

10.6N 71.6W

December 30th, 2011 Category: Sediments

Venezuela - December 24th, 2011

Lake Maracaibo (below) is a large brackish bay in Venezuela. It is connected to the Gulf of Venezuela by Tablazo Strait (55km) at the northern end, and fed by numerous rivers, the largest being the Catatumbo. It is commonly considered a lake rather than a bay or lagoon, and at 13,210 km² it would be the largest lake in South America.

While the lake appears mostly sediment-free, tan and green sediments can be seen in the Gulf of Venezuela to the north. It is a gulf of the Caribbean Sea bounded by the Venezuelan states of Zulia and Falcón and by Guajira Department, Colombia. Also of note in the image is the city of Maracaibo, visible as a grey area on the western bank of the Tablazo Strait.

Sediments in Gulf of Venezuela and Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela – June 24th, 2011

9.5N 71.3W

June 24th, 2011 Category: Image of the day, Lakes

Venezuela - June 21st, 2011

Sediments give the Gulf of Venezuela a greenish hue. Those near the Guajira Peninsula (left) are lighter in color than those entering the gulf from Lake Maracaibo (bottom).

The sediments and algae in the Lake Maracaibo, actually a large, brackish bay, are dark green. It is connected to the Gulf of Venezuela by Tablazo Strait (55km) at the northern end, and fed by numerous rivers, the largest being the Catatumbo.