Factory leak in China reveals toxins, suspicious activity


From China Water Risk

Click for more information.

According to The New York Times, there is something wrong with the water in the industrial city of Handan, China. First, the dead fish appeared. Then, a suspicious factory upstream didn’t pick up their phones.

Officials confirmed pollutants had started streaming out of a fertilizer factory in Changzhi, a city upstream of Handan, Dec. 28. People did not report the spill for a full five days and for the past two months, the public has not heard many updates on the water quality. Over one million people had drank from this water, unaware of its toxins.

On Feb. 20, after examining the water, the results were announced to the public: the water contained 39 tons of aniline, which can be toxic if consumed, inhaled or touched. While 30 tons of the chemical was contained in a reservoir, the remaining amount leaked into the Zhuozhang River.

Northern China, which often struggles with environmental degradation, is starting to question how the Communist Party responds to environmental disasters and threats. While 39 people have been punished for the crime, the company continues to move forward in its work. Fines against companies found polluting the water usually hover between $8,000 and $80,000 – not a detrimental amount to pay for a major factory.

A woman carries clothes in buckets after washing them in a canal next to the Zhang He River near Handan, Hebei Province, China. Photo by Adam Dean for The New York Times.

A woman carries clothes in buckets after washing them in a canal next to the Zhang He River near Handan. Photo by Adam Dean for The New York Times.

A report by Greenpeace East Asia on the spill read, “There is a history of clashes between heavily water-consuming coal-to-chemical factories and citizens downstream who are trying to compete for water to drink.”

The amount of water this factory, among others of its size, use each hour is around the same amount that 300,000,000 people use in one year.

In 2011, after an examination of 200 cities, over half were found with water rated as “fairly poor to extremely poor.” With numbers like these, officials are being persuaded to turn a steady and aggressive eye on traditional factories.


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