A 100-ton pile of garbage, including medical and household waste, had washed up near a drinking water reservoir on the island of Chongming in Shanghai, China. The said place is home to approximately 700,000 people.
Although officials have yet to confirm the culprits, it is suspected that two ships have disposed of these wastes somewhere upstream in the Yangtze River. The rubbish has since drifted downstream towards and has now collected around the Dongfengxisha Reservoir, one of the four primary water reservoirs of the city. Fortunately, water tests reveal that the drinking water has not been contaminated and that it is still safe to drink. Furthermore, officials say that the water inflow to the reservoir has temporarily ceased while testing and clean-up efforts remain underway.
In an interview with Shanghai Daily’s Yang Jian, Song Jian, the Deputy General Manager of the water reservoir management company said:
“Much garbage has been floating into reed marshes near the reservoir, which had increased the difficulty of clearing them.”
Current efforts are focusing on cleaning the vast expanse of garbage that floats around the island. Reports say that the amount of rubbish that built up in the area is enough to cover several football fields. About 40 workers have been dispatched to clean up the area – a colossal task that will take about a fortnight to complete.
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Garbage of all sorts, including catheter bags, intravenous fluid bottles, and hypodermic needles have been washed ashore. Although some of the washed up garbage had been cleaned, more wastes have steadily accumulated. Local media links the dumping of toxic chemicals to the illnesses about 500 students developed early this year, some of which as severe as leukemia. Local officials have argued that these are false claims and have disputed any association with the toxic chemicals. However, the chlorobenzene level in the water has been detected to be over 100,000 times over the safe limit. Chlorobenzene is a toxic solvent that can damage the nervous system and vital organs such as the kidneys and the liver.
A comment from a netizen read, “This is so sad, just humanity digging its own grave.”
China is fighting a long-standing battle with pollution, with about a million deaths per year being linked to air pollution alone.