A chemical plant in east China's Shandong Province has been shut down for illegally discharging waste water containing arsenic into flooded rivers, gravely endangering the health of 500,000 residents living downstream.
The tainted flood water originated from Linyi city in Shandong and flew through river courses to neighboring Pizhou city in Jiangsu Province in late July. The blackened and odious water killed off fish and shrimps in rivers, destroyed crops and caused people to develop strange diseases.
Worse still, the toxicants had polluted the soil with thick layers of black and yellow substances condensed on the riverbeds. Local residents were forced to resort to buying bottled water and digging deeper wells. However, water fetched from a well 48 meters deep was still found to be undrinkable.
Yixin chemical company in Linyi city used arsenate to produce a fertilizer additive named arsanilic acid. In the process, a huge amount of waste water containing highly concentrated arsenic was produced. The company hid the waste water inside the plant but released it into rivers during flooding seasons.
The Linyi environment protection bureau told the Economic Information Daily that the plant had been shut down and its bosses detained by police for criminal investigation.
However, the river pollution in July was by no means an isolated incident. In January a river from Linyi flowing through Pizhou was also found to be seriously tainted with arsenic. The two cities had since spent over 10 million yuan on pollution treatment, which was completed by the end of April, just before the flooding season kicked in.
Local residents have expressed worries over the reoccurring pollution and feared coming floods might bring more arsenic-tainted water and overflowing embankments destroying more crop fields and further polluting drinking water sources.
They have also called for monitoring stations to be built on cross-border rivers for real time surveillance of the water quality so that emergency measures can be taken in time. The current regular inspection method seemed to be ineffective in preventing polluting plants from discharging the toxic waste at nights or in rains.
A dozen dams have been set up within Linyi to prevent more tainted water from flowing further downstream. The Linyi authorities mobilized local residents to help add lime and ferric chloride to the water to reduce the toxicant's concentration. They have also diverted water from a cleaner river to dilute the tainted rivers.
(CRI August 6, 2009)