Legal and regulatory framework – Part 1
Welcome back to the course! I’m very glad to have you back. In this session, we will analyze a very important component for designing and proposing alternatives to address environmental pollution.
In this session, we will learn about the applicable regulatory framework for the study of contaminated soil and water.
The main objective of this session is that you know the fundamentals of the Mexican environmental legal framework and identify the applicable standards for the study and analysis of contaminated soil and water.
We are sure that the knowledge acquired in this module will be useful not only in this UDA but also in your comprehensive training.
The General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection (LGEEPA)
The General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection (LGEEPA) is the highest environmental law in Mexico that regulates what is related to the fifth place of article 4. And 25 of the Political Constitution of the United Mexican States. It was enacted on January 28, 1988.
Its objective is to promote sustainable development and establish the bases for:
- Guarantee the right of everyone to live in a healthy environment for their development, health, and well-being;
- Define the principles of environmental policy and the instruments for its application;
- Preservation, restoration, and improvement of the environment;
- The preservation and protection of biodiversity, as well as the establishment and administration of protected natural areas; * The sustainable use, preservation, and, where appropriate, the restoration of soil, water, and other natural resources, so that the obtaining of economic benefits and the activities of society are compatible with the preservation of ecosystems;
- The prevention and control of air, water, and soil pollution;
- Guarantee the co-responsible participation of people, individually or collectively, in the preservation and restoration of the ecological balance and the protection of the environment;
- The exercise of the attributions that in environmental matters corresponds to the Federation, the States, the Federal District, and the Municipalities, under the principle of concurrence foreseen in article 73, section XXIX -G of the Constitution;
- The establishment of coordination, induction, and consultation mechanisms between authorities, between them and the social and private sectors, as well as with individuals and social groups, in environmental matters, and the establishment of control and security measures to guarantee compliance and the application of this Law and the provisions derived from it, as well as for the imposition of the corresponding administrative and criminal sanctions.
As mentioned in the objectives, the prevention, and control of air, water, and soil pollution are essential to guarantee compliance with article 4. of the Mexican constitution, which stipulates the following in section four:
Fragment of Article 4 of the Mexican Constitution «… Everyone has the right to an adequate environment for their development and well-being …»
Analyzing the particularities of the LGEEPA regarding soil and water, we must mention the following:
The LGEEPA states in its articles:
• Article 1.
This Law regulates the provisions of the Political Constitution of the United Mexican States that refer to the preservation and restoration of the ecological balance, as well as the protection of the environment, in the national territory and the areas over which the nation exercises sovereignty and jurisdiction. Its provisions are of public order and social interest and are intended to promote sustainable development and establish the bases for
V.- The sustainable use, preservation, and, where appropriate, the restoration of soil, water, and other natural resources, so that the obtaining of economic benefits and the activities of society are compatible with the preservation of ecosystems.
VI.- The prevention and control of air, water, and soil pollution;
Article 3. For the purposes of the Law, it is understood as:
XXXIII.- Hazardous waste: Are those that have any of the characteristics of corrosivity, reactivity, explosiveness, toxicity, flammability or that contain infectious agents that make them dangerous, as well as containers, containers, packaging, and soils that have been contaminated when transferred to another site and therefore represent a danger to the ecological balance or the environment.
Article 134.- For the prevention and control of soil contamination, the following criteria are considered:
V.- In soils contaminated with the presence of hazardous materials or waste, the necessary actions must be carried out to recover or restore their conditions, so that they can be used in any type of activity foreseen by the urban development program. of the ecological ordinance that is applicable.
Article 136.- The residues that accumulate or may accumulate and are deposited do not infiltrate the soils must meet the necessary conditions to prevent or avoid:
- The ground’s pollution;
- Harmful alterations in the biological process of soils;
- Alterations in the soil that impair its exploitation, use, or exploitation.
Article 152.- When the generation, handling or final disposal of hazardous materials or waste produces soil contamination, those responsible for said operations must carry out the necessary actions to recover and restore the conditions thereof, with the purpose that this may be the destination of any of the activities provided for in the applicable urban development or ecological zoning program for the respective property or area.
Regarding water contamination, according to what is established in the National Water Law, the following uses are contemplated for this resource:
- Urban public
- Consumptive and,
For legal purposes (National Water Law), a body of water or receiving body is defined as:
Article 3, section XVII: The current or natural reservoir of water, dams, channels, marine areas, or national assets where wastewater is discharged, as well as the lands where said waters are infiltrated or injected when they can contaminate the soils, subsoil or aquifers.
It is of particular interest to know and understand the distribution of powers and coordination established by the LGEEPA in water matters.
Therefore, these distributions are explained below:
Article 5: The powers of the Federation are:
- XI. The regulation of sustainable use, protection, and preservation of national waters, biodiversity, fauna, and other natural resources of its competence.
Article 7: The States, in accordance with the provisions of this Law and the local laws on the matter, have the following powers:
- VIII. The regulation of sustainable use and the prevention and control of contamination of waters under state jurisdiction; as well as the national waters assigned to them;
Article 8: The Municipalities, in accordance with the provisions of this Law and the local laws on the matter, are responsible for the following powers:
- VII.-The application of the legal provisions on the prevention and control of pollution of the waters that are discharged into the drainage and sewerage systems of the population centers, as well as the national waters assigned to them, with the participation that according to local legislation on the matter corresponds to the state governments;
Regarding the responsibility of those who contaminate a site, the LGEEPA establishes in article 68 the following:
• Article 68 . Those who are responsible for the contamination of a site, as well as damage to health as a consequence of it, will be obliged to repair the damage caused, in accordance with the corresponding legal provisions.
The LGEEPA establishes the actions to be taken by those responsible for said contamination or damage, this is established in Art. 69.
• Article 69. The persons responsible for activities related to the generation and management of hazardous materials and wastes that have caused the contamination of sites with them are obliged to carry out remediation actions in accordance with the provisions of this Law and other applicable provisions.
As you could verify, the terms established in the LGEEPA govern aspects related to soil contamination and establishes as mandatory to implement prevention, control, and remediation actions for contaminated sites.
In this sense, the LGPGIR regulations establish the actions and procedures to carry out remediation actions for contaminated sites. It is important that you know these concepts and what is established by said regulation.
Below are mentioned in detail,
• Article 132. Remediation programs will be formulated when a site derived from an emergency is contaminated or when there is an environmental liability.
• Art.132. … Environmental liabilities are considered to be those sites contaminated by the release of hazardous materials or waste, which were not remedied on time to prevent the dispersion of pollutants, but which imply a remediation obligation. This definition includes pollution generated by an emergency that has effects on the environment.
Finally, as established by the internal regulations of SEMARNAT, this secretariat is empowered to carry out the following actions:
• Article 45. The Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection will be in charge of an Attorney and will have the following powers:
I. Schedule, order and carry out visits or inspection operations, to monitor and evaluate compliance with the legal provisions applicable to …
Soils contaminated by hazardous materials and waste, highly risky activities, hazardous waste, environmental impact, emission and transfer of pollutants, wastewater discharges to national water bodies, ecological regulation and environmental audit, in accordance with the applicable provisions; as well as establishing policies and administrative guidelines for this purpose.
As explained in the previous content, the sustainable management of water and soil resources, for the preservation of the environment and, in this way, guaranteeing the balanced coexistence of living services is fundamental and is established in our political constitution, as a right for all and all Mexicans. The LGEEPA, in turn, aims to define the environmental policy to preserve these resources.
How could you realize There are some obligations within the Law of our country that concern us as citizens in environmental matters.
The section of this Law that focuses on the attitudes and instruments that monitor the protection of the environment are called environmental standards.
In our Mexican constitution, some norms contribute to the environment in various areas of daily life. Within the so-called ecological Mexican official standards for Mexican industry, we find environmental standards.
A section that legislates focused on industry, manufacturing, society, among others, responsibility with the environment.
In the following site, you will find the environmental regulations referring to the remediation of contaminated sites (water and soil). You will find a box where the name of the standard and its theme appears. To date, 14 published standards regulate the management of contaminated sites in Mexico. The Official Mexican Standards (NOM) establish the maximum permissible limits (hydrocarbons) or total reference concentrations (metals) of contaminants in soils, the guidelines for sampling in the characterization of contaminated sites, and establish specifications for remediation. giving certainty to the effectiveness of the results of the remediation of contaminated sites
The NOMs are complemented by the Mexican Standards (NMX), which are voluntary, but once referred to in a NOM, their application becomes mandatory. The NMX establishes, in the case of hydrocarbons, methods for the analysis of contaminants, and in the case of metals, the general specifications for soil sampling.
In the same way, in addition to the National Waters Law and its Regulations, various norms have been published aimed at preventing the contamination of national waters. Among these standards, we can cite those referring to the construction, maintenance, and rehabilitation of water extraction wells to avoid the contamination of aquifers; as well as those that establish the maximum permissible limits for wastewater discharges into national waters and assets and urban or municipal sewerage systems.
I invite you to review the rules in the following link, in this way you will know the governed aspects and it will facilitate the application of technologies for environmental remediation
Keep in mind the content of the aforementioned regulations since they will allow you to proceed appropriately when strategies for environmental remediation are proposed.
As you now know, there is a regulatory framework in Mexico that justifies the reasons why it is necessary to establish prevention, control, and elimination measures for water and soil pollutants. Do you already know these basics? Did you know the details of these legal bases?
In the same way, there are official Mexican standards and Mexican standards (not mandatory) that establish minimum and maximum permissible limits of pollutants, as well as the physical, chemical, and biological parameters of these environmental matrices, I invite you to reflect on the importance of these standards as well as their compliance.
What are the implications of non-compliance with them in environmental, social, and economic terms?
Do you think they are enough? Would you propose new rules? In your environment (local, regional or national) what standards can be specifically applied, list the cases, and describe the application?
An environmental legal framework is a very important instrument for putting environmental and development policies into practice, not only through mandate and control but because it enables economic planning and urban development.
The General Law of Ecological Balance and the Protection of the Environment (LGEEPA) is the main legal order in force in Mexico regarding the protection of the environment as a whole.
This Law establishes several instruments of environmental policy to provide protection to the ecological balance and the environment to reverse the tendencies of environmental deterioration and to be able to move towards sustainable development.
Hand in hand with the laws, the Official Mexican Standards on environmental matters (articles 36 to 37 bis of the LGEEPA) work in a complementary manner, which develop said content up to a certain level of specification, most of the time technical, with the purpose that the legislation environment is effectively applied. Previously called Ecological Technical Standards, the NOMs seek, in accordance with article 36 of the LGEEPA, to guarantee the sustainability of economic activities, and these are issued by SEMARNAT.
- Ley General del Equilibrio Ecológico y la Protección al Ambiente. Última reforma publicada DOF 23-02-2005
- Reglamento de la Ley General del Equilibrio Ecológico y la Protección al Ambiente en Materia de Áreas Naturales Protegidas. Última reforma publicada DOF 31-10-2014
- LEY GENERAL PARA LA PREVENCIÓN Y GESTIÓN INTEGRAL DE LOS RESIDUOS. Última reforma publicada DOF 22-05-2015
- de Aguas, L. (2002). Nacionales y su Reglamento.