Web Date: March 5, 2009
Chinese Mayor Orders Chemical Plant Closures
The mayor of Yancheng, a city in the Chinese coastal province of Jiangsu, has ordered the closure of about 30 chemical plants after a local company improperly dumped 30 metric tons of waste phenol into the Xinyanggang River. The incident contaminated the city's water supply and deprived about 200,000 residents in the city of 1.5 million people of drinking water for a day.
According to official Chinese media reports, Yancheng Biaoxin Chemical, the company behind the illegal waste disposal, produces ammonium chloride, hydrogen peroxide, and chloroetherketone. Its plants are located next to an intake pipe for the city's water supply.
In addition to the plant closures, authorities fired two officials responsible for environmental management and reprimanded five other bureaucrats overseeing the water supply.
Jiangsu, the capital of which is Nanjing, is a relatively affluent province by Chinese standards. Its comprehensive industrial base includes hundreds of chemical and pharmaceutical companies scattered throughout its territory.
The province has a history of industrial incidents. In July 2006, an explosion at a fluorobenzene plant in Linhai County killed 22 and injured 29. In the spring of 2007, industrial pollution led to an outbreak of blue algae in Taihu Lake that was severe enough to cause the suspension of the water supply in Wuxi, a major industrial hub that is home to about 2.5 million people.
The incident in Yancheng prompted the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection to call a press conference to discuss how the environment in China continues to deteriorate despite numerous initiatives to improve it. A background document circulated at the conference states that about one quarter of the water flowing in China's major rivers is still too contaminated to be used in any way, including for farm irrigation.
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