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August 8, 2009

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Five held over toxic waste put into river

POLICE in east China have arrested three people and detained two responsible for a river pollution crisis that threatened the lives of more than 500,000 people in two provinces.

The crisis was the second massive environmental incident in weeks after a contaminated tap water threat in northern China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region sickened thousands at the end of July.

The heads of the Yixin chemical plant allegedly poured about 700 cubic meters of unprocessed waste into a river in Linyi City, Shandong Province.

They are in custody after the factory poured the waste containing deadly chemical arsenic, local government officials said yesterday.

Operation of the factory was also halted, they told a news conference.

Arsenic is used in pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides.

The poisonous waste dumped into the river in July was a feed the plant started to make in April.

The polluted water also affected neighboring Jiangsu Province. Its Pizhou City is at the epicenter of the pollution, where river waters are discolored bright green.

Villagers were forced out of the fishing business, their livelihood for many generations.

A resident surnamed Shi who lives near the river told China National Radio that the contaminated water withers crops, kills fish, and gives people rashes if touched.

The pollution was discovered only three months after the city's major pollution crackdown which cost more than 10 million yuan (US$ 1.46 million).

Polluting factories did not stop producing or set up waste-processing equipment during the crackdown, according to a report by Economic Information Daily. They simply stored the waste water in a reservoir and poured it into rivers on rainy nights.

The environmental bureau in Linyi tested water samples and found 18 milligrams of arsenic in one liter of water.

The minimum amount of arsenic needed to kill a person is 50 milligrams.


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