Greenpeace East Asia calls on the Chinese government to suspend production at enterprises found in violation of regulations, and provide health and legal aid to affected residents.
"Our discovery indicates an environmental time bomb created by an overblown phosphate fertilizer industry, producing far more fertilizer than needed. China has now accumulated at least three hundred million tons of phosphogypsum, or more than 200 kg for every citizen in China. What's worse is that phosphogypsum commonly contains a variety of extremely harmful substances," said Greenpeace East Asia actions campaigner Lang Xiyu. "Sichuan province has been the most seriously affected, along with several other large phosphorus producing provinces."
Not only is China the world’s largest phosphate fertilizer producer, but also the largest producer of the industry’s byproduct phosphogypsum. The huge amounts of phosphogypsum currently being stockpiled across the country usually contains a range of harmful impurities such as fluoride, heavy metals, and free acids, and can also lead to dust pollution, groundwater and soil pollution and other environmental problems.
Greenpeace East Asia visited some of the largest phosphate fertilizer production enterprises in Sichuan Province, a major phosphorus producing province, between May 2012 and January 2013. These visits led to the discovery of huge phosphogypsum slag heaps, with the biggest covering 33 hectares of land, and in close proximity to residential communities. A total of nine phosphogypsum samples from five companies were sent to a third party laboratory for testing of fluoride and a variety of heavy metals.
The test results showed that all nine samples included arsenic, cadmium, chromium, mercury and other harmful heavy metals. Of serious concern were the four samples from Lomon Group, Sichuan Hongda Chemical Industry Co., Ltd. and Yingfeng Industries Limited. Each turned up inorganic fluoride content far exceeding 100mg/L, thereby qualifying as hazardous waste according to levels set by the Ministry of Environmental Protection. All four failed to meet national requirements that state such kinds of hazardous waste must sit 800 meters away from any residential areas.
"These samples we've collected are just the tip of the iceberg. We've lifted the lid on a serious problem that's been plaguing this country for decades. It's critical the government addresses this issue and assists the victims of corporate selfishness. We can no longer afford to continue ignoring 300 million tons of phosphogypsum polluting our soil, water and air," said Lang Xiyu.
Greenpeace calls on the government to take immediate action, including a thorough investigation into these piles of hazardous waste and the affected communities. In addition, Greenpeace also recommends the government establish a more stringent phosphogypsum management system, and rectify the overcapacity of the phosphate fertilizer in order to see a reduction of phosphogypsum from its source.
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Damin Tang, Media Relations, Greenpeace East Asia