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Southeastern China Coastal Water Blackened By Industrial Waste Water Discharge

Greenpeace has found a huge plume of black water covering an area estimated as 50 Olympic standard swimming pools off the coast in Eastern Shishi City, China, where a discharge pipe of an industrial zone lies under the sea surface. Lab testing found toxic chemicals including hormone disruptor Nonylphenol and heavy metal in the water discharged by factories in the industrial zone.

Violation of environmental standards, often through extending discharge pipes into coastal water, is a common practice by industrial manufacturers based in coastal China. “This is not an isolated case. Among 435 registered discharge points, more than two thirds were caught violating environment standards in 2012, and one in every four of them never met the standards at all,” says Lee Chih An, toxics campaigner, Greenpeace East Asia. “In this case, the communal waste water discharge pipe is 2.4km long and buried deep down the sea – that’s how far polluters are willing to go to hide their dirty secrets.”

The discharge pipe under the blackened sea water witnessed by Greenpeace belongs to the Haitian Environmental Engineering Co. Ltd, a communal waste water treatment plant that processes waste water from 19 dyeing and finishing factories in Wubao Dyeing Industrial Zone, Shishi City, Fujian Province. Testing revealed that water samples taken from the three discharge pipes of facilities in the industrial zone contained toxic chemicals such as the hormone disruptor Nonylphenol, chloroanilines and antimony.

The introduction of communal wastewater treatment facilities along the coast haven’t saved China’s coastal water environment, as hazardous chemicals in the wastewater can still be present in the treated wastewater at substantial concentrations. Once released into coastal environment, many contaminants accumulate in sediments and aquatic life, leaving China with a severe situation of coastal water contamination.

The City of Shishi is one of China’s biggest children’s wear manufacturing centers, with over 70% of its products exported to countries in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Africa, etc. Many of the chemicals detected in the factory waste water are the same found in children’s clothing made locally in Shishi city, as revealed by a Greenpeace report released in December 2013.

The textile industry is known for its chemical-intensive production processes. As the world’s top textile producer and chemicals consumer, unfortunately, China has only recently started to establish a chemicals regulation system.

A policy on hazardous chemicals that came into effect in March 2013 requires factories to register the discharge and transfer information of the hazardous chemicals they use by January 31, 2014. Contrary to this requirement, however, no update has been disclosed to the public so far. Greenpeace activists have submitted findings of its investigations in Shishi to the Chinese government in a gesture of calling them to take action.

“We just want to remind the government that with this regulation – which has been in place for 10 months or so – they can and should do much more to urge factories to disclose information on toxic chemical discharge and step by step eliminate them,” added Lee Chih An.

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