Officials in southern China shut 112 illegal mines after polluted runoff entered the local water supply, killing fish and making the water unusable for about 30,000 people, China Daily newspaper said.
Pollutants including cadmium and thallium flowed into the Hejiang River after heavy rain led to flooding, and the mines were closed July 6, China Daily said today. Though many fish died before that, officials’ limited equipment and testing kept them from identifying the problem, the Hezhou local government said in a statement on its website today.
“We apologize deeply for the loophole caused by our poor regulation,” Lei Shaohua, deputy head of the Hezhou city environmental bureau, said at a press briefing today, according to a report posted on China National Radio’s website. Concentrations of pollutants in the river are still over safety limits as of 12 p.m. today, the broadcaster said.
The incident adds to concerns over the quality of China’s water supply amid public anger sparked by chemical spills and a case in which thousands of dead pigs were pulled from the main river running through Shanghai. China plans to invest 4 trillion yuan ($652 billion) by 2020 on its water resources, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
About 30,000 people living downstream from the closed mines will be unable to use river water over the 20 days needed for the pollution to dissipate, China Daily said.
A large number of dead fish surfaced on the rive on July 5, the Hezhou government said in its statement. Tests on the water showed that levels of cadmium exceeded standards by 1.9 times and thallium by 2.14 times, according to the statement.
Water quality in Foshan in Guangdong province is normal and the impact of Hejiang river pollution is expected to be “not big,” Southern Metropolis Daily said today, citing Li Kangwen, deputy head of the city’s environmental protection bureau.
In a separate incident, about 50,000 people in the seat of Suijiang county in Yunnan province “have struggled to access” tap water for four days, after heavy rain triggered floods that damaged the town’s water facilities, Xinhua reported today.