Source: Sixth Tone Published: 2016-8-24 By Yin Yijun
A Chinese NGO has accused a recently opened garbage incineration plant in Tianjin of falsifying parts of an environmental impact evaluation, and is calling on local authorities to suspend operations while the facility’s approval paperwork is reviewed.
In a letter to the northern municipality’s environment bureau, the “Friends of Nature” (FON), citing an investigation they conducted in July, said the plant was polluting the environment — a claim that led to protests from nearby residents.
FON told Sixth Tone they have yet to receive a reply from the environment bureau.
The power plant, which is located about 100 kilometers east of Beijing, is owned by Tianjin Dynagreen Renewable Energy Co. Ltd. When Sixth Tone called the company on Wednesday, the individual who answered the phone said she was not in a position to comment on the matter.
Though the plant is located in Tianjin, it is not far from the border with neighboring Yutian County, in Hebei province. FON said that villagers in Hebei who by law should have been consulted about the plant were not. This meant residents in the vicinity of the plant didn’t have sufficient access to information about the project, the NGO’s letter stated.
Increasingly, authorities across China are facing greater resistance from residents who oppose the construction and operation of trash incinerators, nuclear waste processing plants, and other undesirable neighbors.
Earlier this month, thousands of protesters took to the streets in Lianyungang, in the eastern province of Jiangsu, to voice their opposition to the construction of a nuclear waste plant. Plans for the facility were suspended shortly afterward.
FON claims the Tianjin project didn’t do enough to take the health risks posed to neighboring residents in mind, and criticized authorities for not mentioning the presence of farms, orchards, and schools in close proximity in their report on environmental impact, posted to the Tianjin environment bureau’s official website. These details, FON argued, should have been included in the assessment.
Xia Jun, a lawyer and member of FON, told Sixth Tone that in his view, the authorities in question were not taking full responsibility for the report. Revisions to China’s environmental protection law came into effect at the beginning of 2015. Though the consideration of health risk is listed as a principle of assessment, FON claimed authorities had not updated their standards to reflect this.
FON said that several children and adults in the village had developed skin rashes during the plant’s test phase, which began in April and is still ongoing. The NGO also claimed that the project failed to test pollutants properly.
According to the approval document issued by the environment bureau, the plant was supposed to set up monitoring stations at key locations near the plant, such as schools, to measure levels of dioxin — a highly toxic byproduct of industrial processes — in the air and soil.
However, when the local village committees requested monitoring data for these locations, the bureau replied that there weren’t any. According to FON, this oversight means the plant is not yet qualified to operate.
In August of last year, Tianjin was also the scene of one of the worst explosions caused by hazardous chemicals. The resulting fireball billowed hundreds of meters high, killed 165 people, and hospitalized hundreds more.
(Header image: Trash outside of a waste incineration power plant in Chuzhou, Anhui province, Dec. 23, 2014. VCG)