The first round of environmental inspections nationwide in 2016 found some 328,000 metric tons of industrial heavy metals had been improperly handled in Qujing. (Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn)
City government failed to ensure that rectification plans were carried out
China's top environmental watchdog severely criticized the bureaucracy and officials in Qujing, Yunnan province, on Wednesday for failing to correct problems involving the disposal of heavy metal waste that polluted the Pearl River upstream.
The first round of environmental inspections nationwide in 2016 found some 328,000 metric tons of industrial heavy metals had been improperly handled in Qujing.
In response, the city had drawn up a rectification plan ordering Luoping Zinc and Electricity Co to safely dispose of 100,000 metric tons of residue containing lead by the end of this year.
However, the city failed to carry out the plan. The environmental inspection office sent Yunnan province a notice in March, urging acceleration of corrective efforts, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment said in a statement on Wednesday.
In June, environmental authorities dispatched a team to revisit the site. Inspectors found that the 100,000 metric tons of lead waste had not been dealt with, the statement said.
Meanwhile, the inspection team found another mountain of calcium slag in an open area containing toxic waste, including lead and zinc, it said.
The newly found waste was estimated to weigh more than 100,000 tons, and a mixture of calcium waste and rainwater flowed everywhere, bringing significant environmental risks and leaving some parts of the land barren, it said.
The ministry said the company's flagrant violations are the result of the city government simply shifting the rectification tasks to the county government and then leaving them alone.
"No effective supervision was carried out after the order from the province and the central inspection team," the ministry said. "Any dereliction of duty by officials will be punished after investigation."
The Ministry of Ecology and Environment recently exposed a number of cases of dereliction of duty by local governments after dispatching inspection teams elsewhere to check on whether problems previously found had been rectified.
Zhai Qing, vice-minister of the ministry, even ordered local officials to move close to a dirty river and live with local people until the water was no longer black and stinky, after rectification work was flagrantly ignored by the local government in Shantou, Guangdong province, Legal Daily reported.