May 09, 2012 07:26 PM

Toxic from the Tap


The water that flows from the Xiang River and into faucets of residents has been tainted from the source for decades. The central government classified the water as toxic in the1980s and water experts say the river's water is so concentrated with cancer-causing heavy metals that regular treatment systems have collapsed.

On the banks of the Xiang River, around 40 million people derive their livelihoods and live in Hunan Province alone.

Central government authorities finally decided to step in just last year. The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development commissioned the Hunan Provincial Center for Disease Control to test the quality of tap water coming out of water plants in the province. A source close to the Hunan Provincial People's Congress Environmental and Resources Protection Committee said the results were "far from ideal," based on a paper released by the Xiangtan Prefectural Center for Disease Control.

One year later, Caixin reporters visited the intake point for the Xiangtan No. 1 Tap Water Plant. A dog carcass was floating on the water and a large amount of garbage was piled in the vicinity.

"If we had water data from 1985, we'd certainly be able to ensure the water quality compliance of the finished water. But over so many years, the source of the water has deteriorated I don't know how many times," said Zou Junliang, general manager of Xiangtan General Water, stating the benchmark for water quality was lowered over the course of several years.

Public information from the Hunan Provincial Department of Environmental Protection and the environmental departments of Changsha, Xiangtan and Zhuzhou, show that the water of the Xiang River flowing through the three cities is heavily polluted. Scientists classified it as Category III water quality most of the time, meaning such water is not suitable for drinking. 

However, local governments differ on the uses of Category III water. China's environmental protection system and local governments generally count it as a qualified water source.

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