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Hunan to Punish Officials Responsible for Arsenide Pollution
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The Hunan Provincial Government said Thursday that it will severely punish the officials responsible for the arsenide pollution that led to water supply shortage for 80,000 residents for four days in the province.

They will be punished in accordance with relevant regulations for negligence and malpractice, said a leading official in charge of the provincial joint investigation team.

Earlier Thursday, the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) made a similar statement.

The joint investigation team for the arsenide pollution, including the officials from the provincial supervision and environmental departments, was set up Wednesday.

"We have listened reports on the incident made by the government of Linxiang City, where the pollution happened, this morning. We will evaluate the losses and made suggestion on how to deal with the people responsible after the investigation ends," said the official, who refused to give his name.

Pan Yue, deputy director of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), said the arsenide pollution incident was caused by negligence and malpractice by the local governments and environmental departments, which severely harmed the health of the people

"They ignored people's health in favor of economic growth and protected the enterprises. Those officials responsible should be severely punished," he said.

The pollution was uncovered on September 8, when workers from the local environmental monitoring center conducted routine testing of water quality in the Xinqiang River of Yueyang County and found the content of arsenide was ten times higher than normal standards.

Two chemical plants less than 20 km from the polluted river were blamed for illegal discharges of a highly toxic arsenic compound into the river.

Further investigations found not only the river water, but also the silt on the river bed, contained excessive amounts of arsenide, indicating the pollution has been continuing for a long time.

The factories have been shut down and police have detained Yao Zhaohui and Liu Chengping, two managers of the factories in Linxiang city

They could face criminal charges and prosecution, said Pan.

No casualties have been reported from the arsenide pollution and the waster supply for Yueyang County was resumed on Tuesday.

(Xinhua News Agency September 15, 2006)

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