In mid-August, the Yunnan-based blogger Dong Rubin revealed that a nearby factory in south-west China – Luliang Chemicals – had dumped 5,000 tonnes of toxic chromium tailings on a hillside in the township of Yuezhou. The resulting water pollution killed fish and livestock, endangered the drinking water of tens of millions of people and attracted widespread media attention across China.
Speaking to Guangzhou’s Yangcheng Evening News, Dong explained the impact of the pollution incident: “At its highest, the most toxic type of chromium, hexavalent chromium, was 2,000 times over the limit. Contaminated water was flowing directly into the Nanpan River, which feeds the Pearl River.” The Pearl River is an important source of drinking water for the downstream city of Guangzhou ….
Chromium pollution has a major impact on the environment and restoring contaminated soil is difficult. In the 1970s, both Japan and the United States saw serious incidents of chromium pollution, the most famous being the 1993 case in California contested by the environmental activist Erin Brockovich, which formed the basis for the film of the same name. Developed nations have invested in methods for treating chromium waste, but to little effect. According to the China Chemical Times, many nations have instead reduced their production capacity and companies have closed down due to environmental pressures – and instead imported chromium compounds from developing nations, such as China. That has lead to rapid growth in the sector in China over the last 10 years, including the increased stockpiling of chromium tailings.
See also Paul Mooney’s ‘Dangerous Elements: Heavy Metal Pollution in China‘, via CDT.
Source: On Yunnan’s chromium trail – chinadialogue