Dead Fish In China: 220,000 Pounds Of Poisoned Fish Surface In Fuhe River

By Josh Lieberman on September 4, 2013 1:12 PM EDT

china dead fish
Dead fish have floated to the surface of the Fuhe River in Wuhan, China. The fish were likely killed by high amounts of ammonia dumped into the river by a local chemical company. (Photo: Reuters)

Around 220,000 pounds of dead fish have surfaced along a 19-mile stretch of the Fuhe River in Wuhan, China. Officials said the fish deaths were caused by a local chemical plant dumping pollutants into the river. 

The Hubei province's environmental protection department found ammonia levels which were "far in excess of the national standard" at the drain outlet of the chemical company, Hubei Shuanghuan Science and Technology Stock. Ammonia levels downstream from the plant were as high as 196 milligrams per liter. The World Health Organization says that 12 milligrams per liter is natural in surface water, with safe drinking water containing 0.02 milligrams per liter of ammonia.    

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An environmental official identified only as Xiao told Agence France-Press that most of the dead fish had been cleared from the river. According to Xiao, the fish were mostly carp, chub and snakehead. 

The Hubei Shuanghuan plant has been citied four times for environmental violations since 2008, according to the New York Times. Ma Jun, the director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, a nongovernmental organization that tracks pollution, said that the plant has been told to correct its problems after each violation, but is still not practicing proper procedures. 

"Each time it was ordered to be corrected, but this demonstrates that enforcement is way too weak and the cost of violations way too low," Ma said.

The pollution of the Fuhe River by Hubei Shuanghuan is a blow to Huanghualao, a nearby village where 1,600 residents are involved in commercial fishing. Wang Sanqing, the village's Communist Party secretary, said that the village could lose up to 70,000 yuan a day, or $11,400.

China has long struggled with environmental protection and food safety issues. Earlier this year, 16,000 dead pigs were found in the tributaries of the Huangpu River, polluting residents' tap water. And in July, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences claimed that China's air pollution was so bad that it reduces the life expectancy of almost half the country's population by about 5.5 years. 

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