(October 29, 2010) A man has been sentenced to three years and six months in prison for dumping 6,500 tons of sludge from a waste water treatment plants, located nearby the premises of a ground water source protected-area in a suburb of Beijing.
The accused, He Tao, used to work in a waste water plant and later set up a company of his own to specialize in sludge disposal. He contracted business for sludge disposal from at least two waste water plants in the city’s Haidian and Chaoyang districts, the Beijing News reported.
He Tao told the court on October 22 that the payments he received from the waste water plants were insufficient to cover the proper disposal of sludge. So he contacted two people in Mentougou district and paid them to dump the sludge in two canyons that they leased. The two were given suspended sentences.
The canyons were formed by years of sand digging and lie in the ancient riverbed of the Yongding River, a ground water source protection area designated by the municipal government.
High concentrations of heavy metals, toxicants and pathogens were detected in the sludge by disease control and environment protection authorities.
Evaluation by the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences showed that contaminating particulates in the sludge were 150 to 200 percent above the legal amount. Worse still, the sludge was dumped in the ground and no measures were taken to prevent it from seeping underground.
About 500 tons of the sludge was dumped from 2002 to 2005 and another 6,000 tons were dumped from October 2006 to July 2007, the court heard. He Tao also confessed he dumped sludge on fields in Beijing’s rural areas to serve as fertilizer for fruit trees grown by farmers.
The contamination was first reported to the authorities by local residents who complained of an unbearable smell and they worried about pollution. Several members of the district’s legislature also repeatedly raised the issue.
The district procuratorate, the court case’ prosecutor, is requesting that He Tao and his accomplices pay 80 million yuan in criminal civil claims. The court trial has not yet issued a verdict on this matter as of October 22 and said the issue will be addressed separately.
The evaluation by the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences estimated that it will cost more than 80 million yuan for the preliminary treatment of the contamination in the canyons at Shang’an village of Mentougou district and the long-term recovery costs will exceed 100 million yuan.
He Tao’s relatives argued after the court trial that local residents, who discharge household garbage and waste into the canyons, also played a role in the contamination. Moreover, the waste water plants should be held responsible for ensuring that sludge does not contain any contaminants before allowing for its disposal by private contractors. The family is calling on relevant authorities to test the sludge within the waste water plants instead of simply conducting tests in the canyons, arguing that sludge disposal should be the government responsibility.
The sludge has since been treated and buried, while the canyons have been turned into a park with trees and other plants growing on the ground.
Jiang Aitao, October 29, 2010, CRIENGLISH.com
Categories: Beijing Water