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Unaware, China's Handan City Consumed Toxic Water for Days

The people of China's Handan city have been drinking, bathing and washing in toxic water for five days.The city's main resource – the Zhanghe river – was contaminated by industrial pollutants from the neighboring Shanxi Province on December 31, 2012. However, the contamination was not reported by the local government until five days later, when Handan city’s water was cut off without warning on Jan 5, 2013.

The Shanxi government claims a tube rupture at a chemical plant in Changzhi city caused ‘aniline,’ a toxic chemical to leak into the upper reaches of the Zhanghe river.

According to the latest news [zh], the chemical leak comes from a state enterprise: Shanxi Tianji Coal Chemical Industry Group, and the contamination has spread to Anyang city in China’s Henan province.

Residents queue to buy mineral water in a local supermarket in Handan.

Residents queue to buy mineral water in a local supermarket in Handan,Henan province.(A screen shot from Youku)

In response to a query regarding the delay in Changzhi  reporting the accident, Changzhi’s news chief Wang YiPing said[zh]:

我们都是按照规定程序报的,并不是晚报五天。发生了污染以后,只要污染不出长治的边界好像就不用往省里报,自己处理就行,一出边界了这才需要报,再详细的我也不是很清楚。

We report in accordance with the procedures, we didn’t delay the report for five days. As long as the pollution is within the Changzhi boundary, it’s not necessary to report to the provincial government, we can deal with it on our own, we only need to report to the provincial government if the pollution goes out of Changzhi city. I’m not sure about the details.

The local government’s censorship of the news and ignorance of their serious environmental violation have triggered widespread condemnation online. A search on Sina Weibo yields over 2,933,094 results[zh], making it the hottest topic on Jan 6. On one hand, netizens are angry about the repeated environmental incidents in China; on the other hand, they are furious about how local government has censored the news.

Columnist Lian Peng wrote:

连鹏:作为邯郸人,感到离奇愤怒。真是拿老百姓不当回事。山西为什么五天后才报?谁在隐瞒?必须追究事故直接责任者和瞒报者的责任。现有信息有限,但仍想问化工厂为什么在水源边上?有没有严格监管?最后说一句:我们对水资源问题仍然缺乏足够认识,迟早一天,会付出惨痛代价的。

As a the Handan local, I feel extremely angry. People’s lives are not taken seriously. Why did Shanxi report about the problem until five days’ later? Who is trying to conceal the news? Anyone who is responsible for the pollution and the suppression of the news should be held responsible for the accident. I have limited information about this, but still I would like to ask why is the chemical plant set near the river? Is there any strict supervision? Last word: we have not fully acknowledged the water resource issue, sooner or later, we will have to pay a painful price.

CEO of an E-commerce website Zhao Peng wrote:

任何政策执行都关系利益。新闻封锁,言论审查,在山西苯泄露事件中,保护的是事故责任人与失察瞒报的官员,伤害的是漳河流域人民的健康和生命。

Any kind of policy is related to interests of different parties. The censorship of  Shanxi accident has protected the officials who concealed the news and people who are responsible for the pollution, but it hurts all the people living on Zhanghe river at the cost of their health and lives.

Social media personality Xue Manzi urged for better environmental supervision:

全国各地企业环保事故层出不穷,但很少报道,这种貌似维稳是在拿人民生命安全开玩笑!这种特大饮水安全事故五天不报,给下游百万人民不预警,失去防范良机,瞒报就是犯罪!污染更是犯罪!明知污染还不治理是最大的犯罪!为了子孙后代安全必须治理环境污染!

Corporate environmental accidents come one after the other in China, but are rarely reported, this way of “maintaining stability” is taking people’s lives for granted! Such serious issue, when failed to be reported immediately, has hit millions of people without warning, this is crime! Pollution is a crime! Choosing to ignore pollution is the greatest crime! We must deal with environmental pollution for future generations!

Editor at ifeng news Meng Hui echoed:

新闻自由,关系到亿万生灵的生命

Press freedom concerns thousands of lives.

A blogger based on Handan city wrote:

我们已经喝了五天的污染水,后果难以想象,谁来负责?谁负的起这个责?没有别的办法,只有建议大家把那喝进去的污染的水用洗胃的办法清除出来,到底用啥法子呢?估计用啥法子也难以消除污染给我们带来的危害,我们时刻生活在不明真相的威胁中,令人担忧!

We've been drinking contaminated water for five days, it’s hard to imagine the consequences. Who will take responsibility for this? Who can afford to take responsibility? There is no other way, I suggest that everyone go pump their stomachs to clear it. However, we can do nothing to eliminate the hazards the pollution has brought upon us, we always live under the threat from the unknown truth, it’s nerve-racking!

 

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