How polluted is a 19-mile stretch of the Fu River downstream from a local chemical plant in central China? Absurdly polluted. Toxic runoff killed approximately 100,000 kilograms of fish, environmental protection officials said today. NYT:
Tests conducted by environmental protection officials from Xiaogan City revealed ammonia concentrations in the river waters downstream from the plant were as high as 196 milligrams per liter. The World Health Organization notes that naturally occurring ammonia concentrations in surface water are around 12 mg/L, while the guideline for drinking water is that it contains around 0.02 mg/L.
Nearby (and downstream from the chemical plant) is the metropolis of Wuhan, home to 4.6 million people, almost double the size of Chicago. The plant, which produces chemicals used to make glass and fertilizer, has been cited for environmental violations four times since 2008. “Each time it was ordered to be corrected,” the director of an environmental NGO told the Times, “but this demonstrates that enforcement is way too weak and the cost of violations way too low.”China’s deteriorating environment is perhaps the greatest threat the country faces in its quest to become a great power. Pollution in the cities is atrocious, large parts of the country are succumbing to desertification and deforestation, and industrialization has turned once-productive farmland into dead zones. Nearly one third of rivers monitored by the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection are unfit for human contact. The Fu River, where the dead fish were found, flows into the Yangtze, a source of drinking water for millions of people.There’s a lot at stake: China’s environmental disaster threatens “not only the food supply but the legitimacy of the regime itself,” the WSJ reported in a remarkable article in July.[Dead fish in river image courtesy of Shutterstock]