Heavy metals halt diggers

Updated: 2011-08-24 08:30

By Zheng Caixiong (China Daily)

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GUANGZHOU - Construction has ceased on a large affordable housing project after the sight was found to be contaminated.

Heavy metals halt diggers

Construction under way at Nanfang Steelworks in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, on July 14. The government has halted work on the affordable housing project after the land it was to be built on was found to be contaminated.[Photo/China Daily]

The Guangzhou Environmental Protection Bureau ordered the work to stop after an environmental report on the project concluded that the amount of heavy metals at the construction site exceeded State safety levels, according to sources in the city's environmental protection bureau.

The construction started early this year without an approval from the city's environmental protection bureau.

The affordable housing project, which is being built on the site of the former Nanfang Steelworks in the city's Baiyun district, is to comprise 16 buildings, providing 7,675 apartments set aside for about 25,000 low-income residents in Guangzhou.

So far, it is the largest affordable housing project under construction in the southern metropolis.

The project occupies more than 179,000 square meters of land, has a construction floor space of 569,056 sq m and is expected to cost more than 1.18 billion yuan ($184.38 million).

An official from the city environmental protection bureau's monitoring detachment said the construction violated environmental rules and regulations because it started before being officially approved.

"The city's environmental protection bureau has told the project organizers to stop and wait for a punishment," said the official, who did not want to be named.

"Various departments will test the earth at the construction site again and make their findings public," he said.

"About 160,000 square meters of earth have been dug out of the construction site for the project and the contaminated soil is believed to have been illegally transported to another place," the official said.

Various departments are also looking into where the contaminated soil has been taken, he added.

Xu Minggui, an official from Guangzhou Office of Affordable Housing, denied his office had violated rules and regulations in building the affordable housing project.

"We asked a third party to conduct an environmental protection assessment before the construction on the project started," he said on Monday. "The environmental report conducted by the third party said the heavy metals in the soil, including copper, zinc, chrome, lead and nickel, are not concentrated enough to harm people's health.

"Our environmental report from the third party may differ somewhat from the city environmental protection bureau's.

"We did not have to be approved by the environmental protection bureau to start building the infrastructure of the affordable housing project, and the construction of the project was approved by the city's construction committee."

Xu promised to speak to the bureau to clear up any misunderstandings and overcome various difficulties.

After the media reported the halt to construction, it provoked a public outcry among the public.

Wang Xinghui, a Guangzhou office worker, said building the affordable housing project on contaminated soil was a form of discrimination against low-income residents.

"Why do the poor have to live in houses built on contaminated ground?" he asked.