Officials in the city of Qingdao had used bulldozers to remove 7,335 tonnes of the growth from beaches according to the Xinhua news agency.
The phenomenon has become an annual occurrence in the region over the past six summers. This year’s incident has swathed 28 900 sq km (11 158 sq miles), twice as much as the previous biggest bloom in 2008.
The algae, called Enteromorpha prolifera, is not toxic to humans or animals.
However the carpet on the surface can dramatically change the ecology of the environment beneath it. It blocks sunlight from entering the ocean and sucks oxygen from the water suffocating marine life.
The algae thrives on an abundance of nutrients in the sea. University of Cambridge and EnAlgae Project researcher Dr Brenda Parker said that the Chinese bloom may well be linked to industrial pollution.
“Algal blooms often follow a massive discharge of phosphates or nitrates into the water. Whether it’s farming, untreated sewage or some kind of industrial plant that is discharging waste into the water,” she said.
The recent explosion of the algae pointed to a dramatic change in the ecosystem which was probably not natural.
“That would probably be an indicator that something is a little bit unbalanced,” said Parker.
She said that the 2009 example algal bloom on the Brittany coast was a similar example of a human-induced algal bloom.
With China’s large and expanding population, it’s inevitable that pollution has crept in
THE “cadmium rice” scandal has raised awareness of the extent of heavy metal pollution in China, but the situation in Shanghai is considerably better. Zhang Qian talks to researchers mapping city pollution. Shanghai Daily reports
Cadmium discovered in rice from Hunan Province astonished Chinese residents once again, indicating a more pervasive food safety problem and focusing attention on the dangerous levels of heavy metal soil pollution.
The discovery of the toxic, cancer-causing heavy metal in Hunan rice came to light in February in Guangzhou Province. News reports said contaminated batches had been discovered over the years.
Scientists found that no cadmium was part of any chemical additives used after the rice was harvested, thus, leaving heavy metal soil pollution as the likely cause.
Cadmium, a known carcinogen, builds up in the body and damages the kidneys, lungs and bones, causing brittle bones and pain.
It is one of several toxic heavy metals that have leached from Hunan mines, mine tailings and chemical factories into waterways, mainly the Xiangjiang River and tributaries. Water from contaminated rivers, lakes and streams is typically diverted in rice paddies where metals settle into the soil and taint the crops.
Though less obvious than air and water pollution, soil pollution is now getting unprecedented public and official attention, with the revelation of “cadmium rice.”
China’s Ministry of Land and Resources is said to be working on a nationwide soil pollution map, with checks on 81 chemical indexes (including 78 chemical elements) in the topsoil and deep soil all over the country.
The Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau is also launching a soil pollution investigation of key industrial areas in the city.
Lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic and chromium are the top five heavy metals frequently discovered in polluted soil near industrial areas. Antimony and selenium are also found in some regions. Heavy metals are essential in electronic gadgets and their batteries.
“Soil pollution is not a new issue, the problem has existed for more than a decade. But the polluted regions are expanding at an enormous speed in recent years,” says Professor Chen Zhenlou of Resource and Environmental Science School of East China Normal University.
“Generally speaking, heavy metal soil pollution in Shanghai is not as serious as that in Hunan and Jiangxi provinces, and there is no need to worry about ‘cadmium rice’ with the relatively low content of cadmium in local soil,” says Professor Chen. However, there are polluted areas and sources of pollution date back to the days before toxic discharges were banned.
Rice quality report
About one-fifth of China’s farmland, more than 20 million hectares, is polluted by heavy metal and farmland polluted by cadmium is found in around 25 regions in 11 provinces, according to a report issued in 2010 by institutes including the Agriculture Ministry’s rice quality test center.
The report, titled “Research on China’s Rice Quality, the Safety Situation and Development of Countermeasures,” indicates that the problem is most serious in regions south of the Yangtze River, including Hunan and Jiangxi provinces.
“The problem is that the soil cannot self-purify itself from heavy metals,” says Professor Chen, “Once the heavy metal pollution happens, it stays. Even pesticides degrade in 20-30 years, but heavy metals can never degrade the natural way.”
Using irrigation water polluted by domestic sewage and industrial waste was common in the 1970s and 80s.
Irrigating with such polluted water has been banned since the 1990s, but the heavy metals discharged before that period have persisted.
Uploaded on Oct 12, 2011
Would have been good fir World Oceans Day. A performing arts presentation by the Jarratt Create & Educate students. The students were given the theme of Ocean Pollution. The rest was down to them from script writing, organisng themselves into groups to meeting the final deadline (in 2.5 days). Even the video was produced and edited by the students. We are very proud of their results!
Many high-profile pollution incidents, which triggered nationwide outrage, are among the 13 cases the ministry has revealed its response to.
The most recent major pollution scandal to provoke a public outcry was in March, when Deng Lianjun, then-head of the local environmental protection department, responded to residents concerns over a polluted river in Cangxian county, Hebei province, by saying just because it had turned red that didn’t mean the water was unsafe to drink, because ”after boiling with red beans the water has that color, too”.
The river was later found to contain levels of aniline that were 73 times higher than the national standard.
The announcement said Deng had been removed from his post, and the local environmental protection department is testing water and soil samples from a nearby chemical factory that was believed to have caused the pollution.
“The ministry’s statement is a leap forward in official environmental information disclosure,” said Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, an environmental NGO that aims to promote environmental information disclosure in China.
Ma said he was especially happy to see that the ministry has responded not only to issues disclosed by traditional media, but also to hot issues generated from online posts and discussions.
One of them was an allegation that first appeared in February on Sina Weibo, claiming that factories in Weifang, Shandong province, had polluted the local water supply by pumping wastewater 1,000 meters underground.
The ministry’s statement said an investigation led by the local government found no solid evidence that this had happened, but it found that many small paint factories have been operating without wastewater treatment facilities.
The statement said the local environmental protection department plans a further investigation into the illegal dumping of wastewater, and will accelerate the construction of sewage discharge pipelines in the region.
Ma said although the ministry’s statement was welcome it was a bit too simple, briefly summarizing the response to the 13 cases, and he hoped in the future the investigation process, the problems discovered and how they would be addressed, would be disclosed in more detail.
In another case, companies in an industrial park located in the Tengger desert in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, have been dumping their wastewater directly into the desert without treatment.
Production was halted completely in the industrial park after the situation was exposed in March, and it will not be resumed until all enterprises are equipped with a sewage discharge system.
- Data for China’s groundwater pollution seven years out of date (wantchinatimes.com)
- China punishes factories for pollution violations (mooredope.wordpress.com)
- Horrifying Pollution from Chinese Textile Factories (ecobooks4kids.wordpress.com)