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Nine Officials Punished for Allowing Serious Pollution of River
Nine environment and industrial administration officials in Shaodong County have been punished for neglect of duty after the disastrous contamination of a local river.

The Shao River flowing through central China's Hunan Province was polluted by a huge discharge of unprocessed wastewater from 17 denim dyeing mills along the river.

None of the mills had permits from the local environment protection agency to discharge waste.

Luo Shoufu, director of the county's Environmental Protection Bureau, was sacked, and his four colleagues Ning Zeyi and Zhou Chengxiang, both vice bureau directors, and Xiao Yisi and Tang Qinghua, both in the bureau's management department, received punishments of a demerit record or an administrative warning.

Luo Xiasen, deputy head in charge of environment affairs, was punished with a demerit on his record.

The remaining three -- Xiao Jinjun, Zhang Xueji, and Liu Zhihong -- worked in the industrial and commercial administration of Liangshi Town and were given demerit records or warnings.

Seven of the 17 mills had no operation licenses from Liangshi Town's industrial and commercial administration.

The Shao River turned blue after being inundated with the 5,000tons per day of wastewater between June 2001 and September 2002.

The waste was discharged when the denim dyeing business was at its most prosperous, said the provincial government.

The heavy pollution was exposed in local media in January and the provincial government and the State Environmental Protection Administration stepped in.

The survey by the provincial environment monitoring center showed that the COD level in the river water reached a surprising high of 13,568 mg/L (milligrams per liter), or 135 times greater than the national effluent-discharge standard.

COD, or Chemical Oxygen Demand, is defined as the quantity of specified oxidant, which reacts within a sample under controlled conditions. COD is often used as a measurement of pollutants in natural and wastewater to assess the strength of waste such as sewerage and industrial effluent. The high COD level of the Shao River meant severe pollution and the contaminated river water posed a serious threat to the safety of drinking water quality downstream.

With the involvement of the State Environmental Protection Administration, the county launched a special investigation into the incident. Polluting enterprises were closed down and their water and power supply cut off, making illegal production impossible.

So far, the equipment of eight mills has been confiscated and sold, and key equipment from the other nine mills was disassembled and confiscated, said the provincial government.

The Shaodong County government has been ordered by the provincial government to make a written self-criticism to thoroughly examine its mistakes.

(Xinhua News Agency July 15, 2003)

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