Villagers near the Yangzonghai Lake get drinking water from the government. [Qin Qing/Xinhua]
High accumulations of arsenic have caused severe water pollution in Yangzonghai Lake, Kunming City. However, environmental officials from Yiliang County, Kunming City and Chengjiang County, Yuxi City, either pretend ignorance of the cause or keep silent.
Yang Zhiqiang, deputy director of the Yunnan Provincial Environmental Protection Bureau, said, "A two-month investigation has indicated that Yunnan Chengjiang Jinye Industry & Trade Co. is largely responsible for arsenic pollution in Yangzonghai Lake."
This company, located in Chengjiang County, Yuxi City, has three arsenic-related production lines, where major problems have been revealed. On the one hand, its main raw material, zinc sulfide concentrate, was found during analyses that took place over 12 months to June 2008 to contain more than ten times the permitted level of arsenic. On the other hand, no measures were put in place in the production process to prevent arsenic from contaminating recycled water. Solid waste too was found to contain high residues of arsenic.
Data from the National Alpine Wetland Research Center suggests that the level of arsenic accumulation in Yangzonghai Lake equates to discharging 67 kg of arsenic products into the water, which could have serious consequences for human health.
Experts indicate that the ecological systems of the Yangzonghai Lake are both important and vulnerable. Once polluted, it could take ten years or more for the water to recover. The current severe levels of pollution result from long-time accumulations.
According to a County official in charge of environmental protection, officials were unaware of the high levels of arsenic accumulation in Yangzonghai Lake until June 28, when they received calls from the Yunnan Provincial Government.
"We do not monitor Yangzonghai Lake, since Kunming City is responsible for that. They provide all our data. In the past, we knew little about arsenic pollution," he said.
However, an official from the Environmental Protection Bureau of Chengjiang County emphasized that they have been making efforts to monitor the Yunnan Chengjiang Jinye Corporation, but it refuses to abide by the relevant regulations. Between 2002 and 2008 the company has been fined six times for environmental pollution infringements. Although the maximum fine of 100,000 yuan (US$14,653.52) has been imposed several times, the sum is trivial in comparison to the company's profits.
Yangzonghai Lake's severe pollution level was detected by Yiliang County one year ago, but local departments did not take the matter seriously.
"The issue of water pollution is not attributed to technology or funds but management systems," an expert from the National Alpine Wetland Research Center said.
(China.org.cn by Wang Wei September 22, 2008)