Seventy-nine students at a boarding school in Hunan Province were poisoned last week, probably by gases from waste water discharged by an illegal private paper factory.
As of Sunday, 54 of the boarding school students were still hospitalized at the Anhua County No 2 People's Hospital. But the students, who attend Donghua primary school in Meicheng Township of Anhua Connty, were in stable condition after emergency treatment, reported the local Xiaoxiang Morning Post.
Local authorities said gases evaporating from the waste water pro-bably contained poisonous chemicals like chlorine, according to the newspaper. The factory, which started illegal operation in April last year, was some 100 meters from the school.
Long Jinlin, the factory owner, said its factory freezed waste water before discharging it. But on the evening of May 8, the factory simply mixed the waste with cold water and then discharged it. The tainted water, around 50 degrees Celsius, flowed into an open ditch outside the factory and then into the school's underground sewage system.
The poisonous gases evaporated quickly from the industrial water and spread to the school's dormitories, according to the Morning Post.
About 8:20 pm on May 8, students living in the dormitories began to smell the strong chemicals.
"The smell was very strong and sharp, making breathing hard," said Wu Penghui, who fell into a coma.
The private paper mill was told to shut down in late 2001 and improve its environmental problems by June this year, accroding to an official from the county's environmental bureau.
(eastday.com May 13, 2003)