Chemical Waste Dumping, a Cottage Industry in China

By Wang Liang
Epoch Times Staff
Created: February 12, 2012 Last Updated: February 13, 2012
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Illegal dumping of chemical waste has become a widespread problem in China, with a chain of middlemen profiteering from it. This has worsened the already precarious environmental situation in China.

In December 2011, residents of Fengqiao Village in Haozhou City, Anhui Province smelled a pungent odor. The villagers searched all over and eventually found over 70 barrels of liquid chemical waste buried near a stream, which is regularly used by villagers for irrigation.

According to the state-run People’s Daily, the local environmental protection office analyzed it and found several toxic chemical components, including 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid and acetyl benzene. If humans come into contact with this chemical mix, it results in serious health damage.

The local environmental protection office said that just within one county, more than 80 tons of soil was polluted by this dumping incident.

Cross-Province Dumping

Around the same time, the environmental protection office also found dozens of barrels of dangerous chemical waste close to the nearby Xiangyang River. The yellow chemical waste had spilled outside the barrels, less than one meter from the river and could have easily caused large-scale water pollution.

Police arrested six suspects involved in the dumping. According to the suspects, the 22 tons of chemical waste came from a chemical factory in Dafeng City, of neighboring Jiangsu Province. The suspects said they were paid 700 yuan (approximately US$110) per ton to discharge the chemical waste. They subsequently paid a man with the surname Qiu 400 yuan (approximately US$64) per ton to transport and bury it.

Environmental protection experts said, the proper handling of the chemical waste would have cost 100,000 yuan (approximately US$16,000) or more. In this illegal cross-province dumping, the factory paid less than 20,000 (approximately US$3,200) yuan to dispose of it.

Police said there is a profit chain in the illegal dumping of chemical waste. Although chemical companies know about the dangers of illegal dumping, some still engage in it. Some of the middlemen who obtain chemical waste from factories have registered their own waste disposal companies. They receive subsidies from the government to handle the waste, while subcontracting with local residents to take care of it. The locals then pay migrant workers even less per ton to transport the waste to remote rural areas in other provinces.

Environmental protection agencies in Anhui Province discovered almost ten cases of illegal cross-province dumping.

Huang Jialiang, a researcher at People’s University in Beijing said every illegal dumping site is an underground biological time bomb. The dangerous effects on the environment and on human health will take a very long time to remedy.

More than three decades of unrestricted industrial development have taken a heavy toll on China’s environment and on public health. Reports of cancer villages and of villagers near factories showing high levels of lead and cadmium in their blood, have been making headlines in China in recent years.

Nearly half a billion Chinese citizens lack safe drinking water. According to China’s 2nd National Water Assessment report, 35.6 percent of drinking water in China is not drinkable.

And that may be an understatement. A worker at a water treatment plant in southeastern China told The Epoch Times for a previous report that over 60 kinds of chemicals are found in China’s drinking water, but China’s drinking water sanitation directive only lists 15 chemicals for testing. Because of the water scarcity in China, as long as there is not any large scale acute poisoning caused by drinking water, the government does not want to halt the water supply and create a potential situation leading to social instability, the worker said.

Regarding food safety, in Hebei Province villagers said in 2010 they avoided eating their own produce and instead shipped it to other regions for sale, because the toxic dumping from a nearly fabric dye company was poisoning their water, soil, and crops.

Chinese authorities seem to be aware of the problem and take measures to protect themselves. A report widely distributed on the Internet in September 2008 said while most ordinary Chinese citizens can do little about the toxic chemicals they are exposed to, China’s high-ranking officials reserve for themselves organic foods grown in special pristine supply bases.

Read the original Chinese article.


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