Pollution Update 3: Chinese executives threatened water supply…. and may pay the consequences

An SVG map of China with the Guangxi autonnomo...
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Seven people have been detained over industrial waste discharges that polluted a south China river and threatened water supplies in a major downstream city, the local government said yesterday.

All seven were chemical plant executives who worked in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, including Jinchengjiang Hongquan Lithopone Material Co Ltd in Hechi City, said Feng Zhennian, a deputy director of Guangxi’s environment protection department. Feng is also spokesman for an emergency response center set up to handle the incident.

He did not identify the seven people or any other suspected polluters.

Cadmium pollutants were first detected in Longjiang River, a tributary upstream of the Liujiang River, on January 15, when cadmium concentration near the Lalang reservoir was 80 times higher than the official limit of 0.005 milligrams per liter, Feng said.

The source of the pollution was reportedly contained on Saturday, as cadmium concentrations at the Lalang reservoir, where the pollution was first detected, had returned to normal.

The pollution belt was now near the downstream Luodong hydropower station and the cadmium concentration levels were still 25 times higher than the official limit, Feng said.

He said the pollutants were still flowing downstream and were close to a major drinking water source for Liujiang, a city with 1.5 million permanent residents in the city proper.

The local environment watchdog has set up 20 surveillance stations along 200 kilometers of the river and more than 210 surveillance workers are at work to monitor water quality.

“The tap water company in Liuzhou has also stepped up surveillance and will strive to provide safe water for the residents,” Feng said. “Judging from the surveillance data, we’re confident the situation is under control and water supplies to Liuzhou will remain safe.”

Efforts are continuing to be made to mitigate the cadmium pollution yesterday.

Environmental protection workers have been adding neutralizers, made from dissolved aluminum chloride, at six locations along the Longjiang River in a bid to dissolve the contaminants.

Dispatched on the pollutants-neutralizing mission on January 21, armed police had dumped a total of 4,650 tons of activated carbon, quicklime and aluminum chloride to the water as of 3pm yesterday, according to Armed Police authorities in Guangxi.

A total of 3,160 members of the Armed Police had helped out in the shipping or pouring in of neutralizers and some 340 others were still busy with the work yesterday.

Cleanup work will be conducted in an area located 6 kilometers downstream from the Luodong hydropower station, where the pollutants were concentrated on Sunday night, as well as another location near the Sancha hydropower station, said Qin Bin, deputy secretary of the Hechi city committee of the Communist Party of China.

“It is a critical time right now, as downstream drinking water safety is in jeopardy,” Hechi Mayor He Xinxing said.

“We will take every measure possible and optimize our strategies to bring down cadmium concentration levels,” the mayor added.

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