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Apple supplier pollutes city river

2013-02-22 09:57 Shanghai Daily     Web Editor: Wang YuXia comment

A factory in suburban Shanghai which makes cases for Apple products is facing the "harshest penalty" for discharging waste into rain pipes, which severely polluted a river, local environment authorities said yesterday.

Residents in Songjiang District's Chedun Town had long been plagued by the stinky "river of milk" which ran across the district's industrial park and into their neighborhoods. The Tielu river earned its new name after it turned milky white and started to smell last year.

Residents worry about food safety as many farmers grow vegetables next to the river, using its water to irrigate their crops.

Elderly residents frequently wash vegetables in the river before sending them to be sold in the town's markets. They were washing the vegetables even after the water appeared milky white, local residents said.

"The water seemed to be poisoned. It started to appear white last year and it was so stinky and dirty that small fish and crabs have all died out," said a 63-year-old resident surnamed Ping. "I tried to stop people from washing vegetables in that river, but they never listened to me."

In a section of the river which runs across a residential neighborhood, the water is covered by solid matter which looks like dirty ice and smells bad.

A plastic washbasin which had been thrown into the river hadn't moved or sunk but just "stood" on what seemed like a solid surface.

"The river was like that since the beginning of last year. It was very smelly all the time and we don't know what was covering it. It looks like some chemicals discharged from nearby companies," said resident Zhao Guangxing.

Local environment protection authorities launched an investigation into factories in the area after the latest report from residents.

An Apple supplier, Riteng Computer Accessory Co, was found to have poured fluid and oily waste water into the drains which then flowed into the river, causing heavy pollution, the authorities said.

However, company officials yesterday denied the waste was discharged deliberately, saying that it had "accidentally" got into the drains when workers were cleaning the factory floors.

"During the cleaning process during the Spring Festival, some oil and cleaning agents flew into the drains by accident," said an official surnamed Zhong.

Zhong said the company immediately sealed the drains to prevent more liquid flowing into the river. He said the company had nothing to do with the river's milky white appearance.

Environmental authorities said they had received frequent reports from residents about the pollution since last year.

They launched several cleanup campaigns, but had not been able to find which factory, out of more than 200, was responsible. "We currently have no evidence proving that the factory deliberately poured the water into the river," said Liu Fengqiang, deputy director of the Songjiang District Environmental Protection Bureau.

"But there are surely loopholes in the factory's management and the factory should correct them," he added.

He said the bureau will punished the factory according to the harshest penalty, but declined to disclose the fine the bureau will impose.

In December 2011, 61 people were injured in a blast at the factory. Parent company Pegatron Corp said the blast occurred in dust-collection equipment.

New York-based China Labor Watch said that aluminum dust from polishing cases for Apple iPads had caught fire.

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