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Chemical factory endangers residents
( 2003-10-21 08:53) (China Daily)

Pollution caused by a chemical plant in East China's Fujian Province still poses a threat to the health of residents in a nearby village.

Major pollutants produced by the Rongping chemical plant in Pingnan County include sewage and waste residue containing chrome, a first-level pollutant in China, and chlorine.

The plant, the largest chlorate manufacturer in China, with an annual capacity of 30,000 tons, produces one ton of waste residue containing chrome every day.

Most of the residue produced in recent years, totalling almost 600 tons, has been dumped just outside the plant.

According to plant boss Hong Huiyi, a 4,000-square-metre residue field that meets the national standards on hazardous waste treatment will be set up by April 2004, and all residue dumped from now on will be moved to that field.

There is currently a 2-metre high and 5-metre wide wall built to prevent the waste from seeping into the lower reaches of the nearby Xiping River.

However, all this wall can do at most is prevent waste from sliding, being almost ineffective in preventing chrome from being washed off by rain water, said Liu Yongqing, head of the Fujian Provincial Environment Monitoring Centre.

Liu said that in order to improve the situation before the field is created, the plant only needs to build a pond under the wall, which can gather sewage containing chrome and where chemicals can be put into it to get rid of the chrome. Investment in such a pond will not surpass 20,000 yuan (US$2,400), he said.

According to the State Environmental Protection Administration, pollutants discharged by the plant stopped rice production in more than 11 hectares of nearby fields, also hitting production in 12 hectares during 2000 and early 2001.

At a conference held by the provincial environmental protection bureau last November, it was suggested that the county government relocate all residents living in areas 130 metres or less away from the plant.

However, residents in Xiping Village still cannot stop worrying about their health because it seems that their promised relocation is never taking place, said villager Zhang Changjian, who is also employed as an environment supervisor of the plant.

Lin Ruping, vice-head of the county, explained that the relocation involves 24 families, requiring funding of 4 million yuan (US$483,000).

He said given that the fiscal revenue of the county is only 30 million yuan (US$3.6 million), the relocation fund are hard to come by. The relocation can only be realized when there is enough money.

Xu Wei, an official with the provincial environmental protection bureau, said that after taking some measures, the plant has met national standards on the discharge of chlorine and sewage treatment.

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