A Great Lake Fills With Filth...As Salt Seeps In From The Sea

When explorer Amerigo Vespucci sailed into Lake Maracaibo 501 years ago, the Indian huts sitting on stilts in the water reminded him of Venice. The image stuck, and the country where Maracaibo is located was eventually named Venezuela--"Little Venice." But today, Vespucci might have a different metaphor for South America's largest lake, which is forested with oil derricks, crowded with tankers, and saturated with sewage and chemicals. "The toxic level is incalculable and practically irreversible," says Jose Moya, president of environmental group Forja. "It's a sad situation."

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