China has detained seven company executives after suspected industrial waste discharges polluted a river with toxic cadmium, threatening drinking supplies for millions, state media said yesterday.
The discharges have contaminated a 100km stretch of the Longjiang River in Guangxi Province, sparking panic buying of bottled water in nearby cities, the China Daily reported.
One company, called Jinhe Mining Co, has been blamed for dumping cadmium — a carcinogen that can seriously damage the kidneys, bones and respiratory system — into the river, in a spill that was discovered on Jan. 15.
However, the government has decided to widen the crackdown to go after other polluters, inspecting more than a dozen factories on the river and stopping production at seven plants.
Feng Zhennian (馮振年), a local environment official, told reporters that seven executives from companies deemed responsible for polluting the river had been taken into custody, the Xinhua news agency said late on Monday.
He said they were all chemical plant executives who worked in Guangxi, but refused to name them, the report said.
The initial spill happened in Hechi City, but was now flowing downstream, endangering drinking water for 1.5 million people in Liujiang City. It was also approaching Liuzhou City, with a population of 3.7 million, reports said.
“It is a critical time right now, as downstream drinking water safety is in jeopardy,” Hechi Mayor He Xinxing (何辛幸) was quoted by Xinhua as saying.
A spokesman for Hechi City Government declined to comment when contacted by reporters, and regional officials could not immediately be reached.
Authorities have mobilized thousands of soldiers to dump chemical neutralizers into the river to dilute the cadmium, but levels of the chemical were still more than 25 times higher than the official limit on Monday in some parts.
In its latest update yesterday, the Liuzhou City Government said cadmium levels were 1.6 times higher than the government standard.