Drug firm made to pay for pollution

By Gao Changxin (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-01-13 08:17
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Drug firm made to pay for pollution

Workers in Woyang county, Anhui province, clean up barrels of chemical waste dumped by pharmaceutical firm Zhejiang Apeloa Tospo Pharmaceutics in December. The company has been ordered to pay compensation for the act. [Photo/Bozhou Evening News] Drug firm made to pay for pollution

SHANGHAI: Authorities have made a pharmaceutical company in Zhejiang province pay a compensation of 2.2 million yuan ($322,200) after it dumped more than 1,000 barrels of unprocessed, noxious waste in two counties in neighboring Anhui province last December.

Environmental protection authorities held the company, Zhejiang Apeloa Tospo Pharmaceutics, responsible for the pollution in Lixin and Woyang counties, along with its waste processing contractor Xing Binghua, who is now wanted by the police.

The chemical waste dumped in the two counties contains dichloromethane methanol and methane, which are categorized as hazardous waste chemicals under national regulations.

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The chemicals can cause eye diseases, blood poisoning and damage to the central nervous system, experts said.

So far, no human-related injuries or deaths have been found, Chen Xianfeng, head of the local Bozhou municipal environmental protection bureau, said yesterday, as "the site where the noxious waste is dumped is away from residential areas and all the waste along with the soil on which it was dumped has been shipped to a chemical waste treatment center in Chuzhou, Anhui for disposal".

"We also sent working teams to the two counties to work with local officials to check if the toxic chemicals had gone into the local water. We haven't found any pollutants in the water."

The two counties will get their compensation in a week since the provincial environmental protection bureaus of Zhejiang and Anhui had already reached an agreement in addressing the issue, Chen said.

The money from the compensation will mainly be used to pay for the disposal of the waste.

Villagers in Woyang county first reported the chemical waste on Dec 3, when 291 barrels of unknown chemicals weighing about 40 tons were dumped in the county with more than 10 barrels leaking, said Wang Huijuan, head of the Woyang environmental protection bureau.

Three days later, local residents spotted another 756 barrels of chemical waste in Lixin county.

The Bozhou environmental protection bureau launched investigations after receiving the report.

Xing Binghua was given the contract to process the waste last year, but he reportedly sold the waste to Woyang and Lixin farmers instead. The buyers reportedly wanted to recycle the metal barrels at low cost and were told the waste could be used as crop fertilizer.

The farmers then bought the waste, shipped it back and dumped it in their counties.

"To a great extent, the accident is the local environment authorities' fault," said Professor Chen Zhenlou, deputy director of the school of resources and environmental science of East China Normal University.

"According to national regulations, the local environment protection bureau should do an environmental impact assessment They should also keep a close eye on companies that are more likely to cause pollution and a pharmaceutical company definitely qualifies as one."