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Smelting Plant Confirmed as Lead Poisoning Source
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A lead smelting plant has been confirmed as the source of lead poisoning that affected nearly 900 villagers in Gansu Province.

A provincial environmental official also said the plant had continued to discharge pollutants even after it had been told to stop.

Meanwhile, the local government says it is taking measures to help improve the polluted environment.

Officials in Huixian County sent medicine over the weekend to two villages where farmers have been suffering from lead poisoning.

They have also discussed with farmers the issue of compensation, Zhang Jiejing, an official with the county government, told China Daily on Monday.

"We also removed eight smelting facilities from the factory causing the pollution," the official said.

A total of 877 farmers in two villages near the factory were confirmed, after medical tests, as having excessive lead in their blood.

Some 334 children under the age of 14 were poisoned, according to Gansu Provincial Health Department.

Since August, the farmers, from the villages of Xinsi and Moba in Shuiyang Township, have been for blood tests to Xijing Hospital in Xi'an, capital of Gansu's eastern neighbor Shaanxi Province.

This mass poisoning and pollution case drew the attention of the State Environmental Protection Administration, which sent a group to investigate.

On Saturday, after just one day of investigation, it found that the Huixian Hongyu Nonferrous Smelting company Ltd, a private smelting plant located near the two villages, was the source of the pollution, according to Ren Longjiang, member of the group.

"It must be relocated to a place far from residential areas and water sources," the expert said.

Yang Hua, an official with Gansu Provincial Environmental Protection Department, told China Daily that the plant had been ordered to close by the local government on August 22.

However, local farmers claimed the plant had been in operation for some 10 years and that they had reported the pollution on many occasions.

"They paid no attention," said Zhou Yongjie, a farmer living in the Xinsi, whose son is suffering from lead poisoning.

And according to Yang Hua, the local environmental protection official, the plant had been required to stop discharging polluted material, but had carried on doing so in secret.

(China Daily September 12, 2006)

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