Two criminals convicted of polluting China's 900-year-old Grand Canal have been sentenced to three years in prison.
Xu Changjun, owner of a cargo ship, and captain Liu Guanhe, were found guilty by a local court on Wednesday of allowing their ship to dump 220 tons of sulfuric acid into the waterway nearly a year ago.
Yuhang People's Court in Hangzhou, capital city of east China's Zhejiang Province also ordered Xu and Liu to pay 23,200 yuan (US$3,050) in compensation to two downstream fishing companies that suffered economic losses from the chemical spill.
The leakage occurred on August 3, 2006 when the vessel carrying 220 tons of concentrated sulfuric acid ran aground in the Yuhang section of the canal -- a 10th century waterway linking Beijing with Hangzhou, about 100 kilometers south of Shanghai.
An investigation showed that Xu's ship had been damaged the previous month. Xu had the ship repaired but did not send it to the local authority for a compulsory checkup before putting it back into operation.
During the voyage, Xu and Liu used liquid soap, glue, and iron flakes to cover crevices on the ship after it showed signs of leakage.
They kept sailing along the canal till the ship began to capsize in the Yuhang section. The two called the police but two thirds of the ship had sunk, spilling all 220 tons of sulfuric acid into the water.
Local environmental departments poured 900 tons of liquid alkali into the waterway to neutralize the acid after the spill. Water was diverted from the nearby Qiantang River to dilute the contaminated water. Navigation along the Yuhang section and the upper reaches of the river was suspended but resumed the next day. The water quality returned to normal two days later.
(Xinhua News Agency July 7, 2007)